BAYAMON, P.R. - The Auburn volleyball team kicked off the first day of the ACC/SEC Puerto Rico Clasico with a 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 25-27, 25-21) upset over No. 16 North Carolina Saturday night in the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.
"I was really happy with the way we battled against a really physical team," head coach Rick Nold said. "We knew we would have to be the aggressor in this match and I thought our mentality was the difference tonight."
The Tigers put together a balanced attack offensively as senior setter Alexa Filley guided the Auburn offense with 47 assists. Senior Macy Reece notched a season-best 13 kills, while sophomore Shaina White chipped in 11. Junior Brenna McIlroy, sophomore Gwyn Jones, and freshman Anna Stevenson had nine apiece.
"Alexa (Filley) did a great job keeping the Tar Heel defense off balance with a balanced offense," Nold said. "Our middles were working hard and that opened opportunities for everyone."
The Auburn defense limited the Tar Heels to a .150 hitting percentage with senior libero Jesse Earl leading the way with a season-high 20 digs. Freshman Payton White totaled a career-best with 14 digs, while McIlroy added 14 as well. The Tiger blockers combined for six blocks on the night.
"Defense has always been a strength of our team and I thought we were really scrappy, which frustrated them," Nold said.
UNC (0-3) had three finished with double-digit kills. Beth Nordhorn and Taylor Leath notched 12 each, while Taylor Borup finished with 10. Setter Holly Carlton had 39 assists and libero Mia Fradenburg had a match-high 24 digs.
Kills from S. White and Reece led to a 5-3 lead to start set one for Auburn. The Tar Heels came back to tie the set at six before a Tiger rally pushed AU up 10-7, forcing a UNC timeout. A handful of Auburn runs highlighted by a Karis Beasley service ace led to an 18-13 advantage, but the Tar Heels persisted and locked the set up at 23. Another kill from Reece made it set point and Stevenson closed out the set with a strike, 25-23.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the second before the Tar Heels pushed an 11-9 advantage. Later in the set, a kill from Jones and a Jones/Stevenson block locked it up at 17 apiece. A kill from Reece sent Auburn on a three-point run to take a 22-21 lead and a Jones kill sealed the set, 25-22.
Kills from S. White and Filley made it 4-3 early in set three. Another kill from Reece triggered a three-point Auburn push, 15-11, and tough AU serving made it 17-13. A McIlroy kill and a solo block for S. White put the Tigers up 23-19 before the Tar Heels pressed a run to tie it up at 24. UNC forced the fourth, holding on for a 27-25 win.
Two kills followed by tough serving from S. White led to an 11-6 Auburn lead to start the final set. Back-to-back aces from Beasley forced a UNC timeout, 14-8, and a kill from Jones gave the Tigers a 16-9 advantage. More errors for the Tar Heels lifted AU to a 19-12 lead and a kill from Reece put Auburn at match point, 24-18. UNC used big blocks to stall the Tigers, but Auburn held on to take the match, 25-21.
The Tigers cap their trip to Puerto Rico Sunday, taking on NC State at 5 p.m. CT in the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.