STARKVILLE, Miss. -- After dropping the first two sets, the Auburn volleyball team came from behind in its 11th five-set match this season to defeat Mississippi State, 3-2 (24-26, 18-25, 25-23, 25-16, 15-11), in Newell-Grissom Friday night.
The win pushed Auburn to 15-10 on the season and 7-6 in SEC play. It also marked the 75th win at Auburn for head coach Rick Nold. He is in his fifth season with the Tigers.
"It was a hard fought match as both teams got after it defensively," Nold said. "I'm proud of the way we fought back to get in match. We made some good adjustments defensively and came away with a tough win."
The Auburn defense was led by sophomore libero Jesse Earl, tallying a career-high 34 digs. That mark is the first 30-dig performance by a Tiger since 2013 and the third-highest by any SEC student-athlete in conference play.
"We knew defense was going to win the game," Nold said. "Jesse covered a lot of ground for us and our entire defensive presence stepped up. They have a very quick tempo attack and our defense had to make some plays."
Junior middle blocker Stephanie Campbell also had a great night for the Tigers, totaling 12 kills on 25 attempts with only two errors for a .400 attack percentage. She chipped in five blocks. Freshman Brenna McIlroy also totaled double-digit kills with 11 and had eight digs. Sophomore Courtney Crable had 11 kills, while junior Breanna Barksdale finished 10 and tied a season-best with seven blocks.
Setter Alexa Filley had a match-best 44 assists and sophomore Kelly Stewart chipped in 10 digs for the Tigers. Junior CiCi Silva came off the bench in set two and provided a spark for Auburn, having seven kills in the match.
Evie Grace Singleton led MSU with 13 kills and Alex Warren finished with 11. Libero Payton Harris also had 34 digs, while teammate Cheyenne Spell had 12.
The Bulldogs took an early 8-3 advantage in set one, utilizing Auburn errors at the start. A pair of aces from Barksdale brought the Tigers within two at 9-7 and an ace from McIlroy gave the Tigers their first lead at 12-11. Auburn held a slim margin throughout the rest of the set and earned set point at 24-21 after a Filley ace. MSU secured sideout and finished the match on a 5-0 rally to win 26-24.
Set two opened up with MSU taking a quick 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs capitalized on Tiger hitting errors to take a 10-4 advantage before Auburn used its first timeout of the stanza. The home team continued to push to take a 20-11 lead and went on to win the set, 25-18.
The third set was a tightly contested one, having seven ties and five lead changes. Tied at nine, the Bulldogs used a 7-3 run to take their largest lead of the set at 16-12. Auburn battled back to tie the set at 20 on a Barksdale/Silva block and a kill from Silva pushed the Tigers to a 22-21 lead. Another Silva kill gave Auburn set point and Campbell sealed the match with a kill, 25-23.
The Tigers took a quick 4-3 lead on a pair of kills from Filley and followed with a run to go up 9-5. Two kills from McIlroy gave Auburn a 12-7 advantage and the Tigers used a 5-0 run to go ahead 16-8. Despite a late MSU rally, the Tigers secured the set on a kill from Silva to win 25-16.
Set five had the Tigers take an early 3-1 lead on kills from Barksdale and Campbell. A kill from Campbell and another from Crable sparked an Auburn run to push the Tigers ahead at 10-4. A service ace from Earl gave Auburn match point, 14-8, and the Tigers held off a late Bulldog surge to win the match, 15-11.
Auburn closes out the weekend with a trip to Tuscaloosa Sunday. The Tigers face off with Alabama at 3 p.m. CT and the match will be broadcast on SEC Network.