AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn volleyball team picked up its third-straight victory Sunday afternoon, outlasting Mississippi State in a 3-2 (26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11) win in Auburn Arena. The outcome pushed the Tigers to 11-10 overall and 5-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
"Mississippi State is an aggressive team that plays great defense so we knew this was a match where we had to stay mentally tough," head coach Rick Nold said. "It was a big win and we're really happy about the outcome."
The Tiger defense put together a solid performance against the Bulldogs, finishing with a season-best 14 team blocks and forcing 39 MSU attack errors. Middle blockers Breanna Barksdale and Macy Reece totaled seven blocks a piece, while freshmen Enija Bidzane and Gwyn Jones added five and four, respectively. Reece & Bidzane each notched a career high in the category, while Barksdale tied a season best.
"We've put some good time into our blocking over the last couple of weeks," Nold said. "We're not a big blocking team based on our size. But we knew that if we're disciplined and take spots away, we would be very successful."
The Auburn backrow also has a solid day with 58 digs. Junior libero Jesse Earl picked up her 11th 20-dig performance, having a match-high 24 digs. Classmate Kelly Stewart added eight, while Bidzane finished with seven.
Junior setter Alexa Filley did a great job spreading out the Auburn offense and keeping the MSU defense guessing. Reece finished with a season-high 12 kills and Barksdale added 11. Jones finished with 10, while Filley chipped in nine.
The Bulldogs (11-10, 3-4) were led by outside hitters Evie Grace Singleton and Emily Hill, having 23 and 18 kills, respectively. Libero Cheyenne Spell had a team-high 17 digs and Jelena Vujcin added 11 kills. Riley Duzenack led all student-athletes with five aces.
A pair of kills from Courtney Crable and a service ace by Barksdale lifted the Tigers to a 7-5 lead in the first and a handful Auburn runs pushed the home squad to an 18-11 advantage. The Bulldogs came out of a timeout strong and pressed a run to lock the set at 18 apiece and the teams exchanged sideouts the rest of the way. A kill from Barksdale made it 24-all and back-to-back Bulldog errors gave Auburn a 26-24 win.
The second set saw the visitors take a 13-9 lead halfway through the stanza. A Bidzane ace and another MSU error tied the set at 16 before the Bulldogs pushed to a 23-19 lead. An Auburn error gave MSU set point and the Bulldogs tied the match at one set each, 25-23.
MSU used aggressive serving to jump ahead at 4-2 in the third. Two-straight Bulldog errors followed by a Reece/Jones block elevated Auburn to a 12-9 lead and a pair of two-point Tiger rallies made it 19-12. Another run of tough serving brought the Bulldogs within on at 19-18, but the Tigers were too much as a kill from Reece made it 24-22 and another MSU hitting errors gave Auburn a 25-22 victory.
Big blocks from Barksdale/Bidzane put the home squad up 4-1 to start the fourth stanza. The Bulldogs servers responded with yet another long run to give MSU a slight 6-5 lead. A kill from Brenna McIlroy sent Auburn on an 8-2 push for a 15-11 advantage, forcing a Bulldog timeout. However, a handful of small MSU rallies lifted the team to a 22-21 lead and the teams went to the fifth with a 25-22 Bulldog win.
A trio of MSU attack errors gave Auburn a 6-2 advantage and more Bulldog errors pushed the Tigers to a 10-5 lead. The visitors came within two at 12-10, but kills from McIlroy and Reece made it match point (14-10) and a hard Bidzane swing gave the Tigers the win, 15-11.