AUBURN, Ala. -- Four Tigers had double-digit kills, and a strong defensive effort led the Auburn volleyball team past Tennessee 3-1 (25-16, 30-32, 25-22, 25-19) Friday night in the SEC opener at Auburn Arena.
In front of a season-best crowd of 990 fans, the Tigers (9-4, 1-0 SEC) recorded 12 blocks and 85 digs on the night and held Tennessee (14-2, 0-1) to its lowest hitting percentage of the season. Auburn won its conference opener for the first time since 2012 and extended its win streak over UT to four straight matches.
"It was really important to get conference play started off on the right foot," Auburn head coach Rick Nold said. "Tennessee's got a really good team and they came in on a hot streak. For us to play what I thought was really good defense against a team like that, that's going to be a key for us going forward."
Courtney Crable led all hitters with 16 kills and hit .222 for the match, while Brenna McIlroy came on strong late in the match and finished with 12 kills. Breanna Barksdale had 10 kills and a team-best .240 hitting percentage, and Emily Klitzke added 11 kills to help pace the Auburn offense. Junior Stephanie Campbell led Auburn with six blocks, including three solo stuffs, while adding two kills, eight digs and a service ace. Sophomore libero Jesse Earl recorded 26 digs along with six assists, and sophomore setter Alexa Filley had her sixth double-double of the season with 46 assists and 19 digs.
Auburn had 60 kills to Tennessee's 41 and out-dug UT 85-82. The Tigers also had 12 blocks to UT's nine, and both teams had four service aces.
The Tigers stormed to an early lead in the first set and never looked back in a 25-16 win while holding UT to a .000 hitting mark in the set. Auburn took a 10-7 lead, and UT never got closer than two points the rest of the way. Crable put down seven kills on 17 error-free swings in the opening frame.
Set two was a wild affair that saw 12 ties and five lead changes, but Tennessee was able to hold on for a 32-30 win to even the match. The Tigers fought back from a 20-15 deficit to tie the game at 23-23, and the teams traded set point opportunities for the next 18 rallies, but Auburn made two errors at 30-30 to give UT the second-set win.
The third set was also close most of the way, but Auburn never trailed in a 25-22 win. Auburn jumped to a five-point lead at 15-10, but UT clawed its way back to make it a one-point game. But two Tennessee errors and a kill from McIlroy gave Auburn the win and a 2-1 lead.
Auburn pulled away late and put together a strong defensive effort in set four for a 25-19 win. Klitzke had her best performance of the night with four kills, and the Auburn defense once again held UT to a .000 hitting percentage.
Tennessee was led by Bri Holmes with 11 kills, and Raina Hembry had seven kills and eight blocks.
The Tigers will return to Auburn Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 30, for a nationally-televised match with Texas A&M. First serve is set for 8 p.m., and the match will air on ESPNU.