Alabama tops Auburn in five sets
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama volleyball overcame a 2-1 match deficit over in-state rival Auburn Wednesday night in Foster Auditorium, persevering for a five-set victory.
Alabama (17-10, 6-8 SEC) won the opening set, 25-21, before Auburn (14-13, 8-6 SEC) came back to win set two, 19-25, and set three, 18-25, and take a 2-1 match lead. The Tide forced a deciding fifth set with a relatively narrow 25-20 decision in the fourth before the Alabama offense came out firing in the fifth with a decisive 15-8 victory to complete the comeback.
Krystal Rivers led the way with 28 kills, putting her 33 kills shy of the Alabama career record. Her 30.5 points in the match allowed her to move into first place on the Tide career record book, owning 2,396.0 which passes previous record-holder Erin Heffner (2001-04) at 2,391.5. Alabama saw strong offense from its middles, with Hayley McSparin earning eight kills with a .429 hitting percentage while Leah Lawrence finished with 10 kills and a .400 clip. In the back row, Natalie Murison dug a career-high 28 balls, one of three Tide players in double figures.
The score was tied 1-1 early in set one but Alabama scored back-to-back points to pull ahead by two and the Tide held on to its slim lead until the media timeout, up 15-12. Auburn fought back within one, down 17-16, but Alabama widened the gap slightly with a 3-1 run, holding a three-point lead at the 20-point mark as the Tigers took a timeout. Auburn took its second timeout trailing 22-18 and Alabama reached set point at 24-18 before the Tigers extended the set with three-straight points, forcing the Tide to take a timeout leading 24-21. A service error by Auburn on the next point gave Alabama the 25-21 win to take the first set of the match.
Alabama started the second set with three unanswered points and, leading by three later at 9-6, an Auburn attack error made it a four-point game as the Tigers took a timeout down 10-6. With Alabama leading 15-11, Auburn scored four-straight points to tie it and force the Tide to take a timeout at 15-15. The Tigers took its first lead at 18-17 and led 20-18 at the Tide's second timeout. Auburn closed out the set with a 5-1 run to win, 25-19, and even the match at 1-1.
The Tide led 4-3 early in the third before Auburn scored four in a row to lead 7-4. The Tide came back to tie it at 11-11 but could not retake the lead before the media timeout as the Tigers held the slim 15-13 advantage. Three unanswered points out of the break by Auburn capped by a service ace made it 18-13, forcing Alabama to take its first timeout and the Tide took its second as the Tigers closed in on a set victory, leading 23-16. Each team would score two more points in the set with Auburn winning 25-18 to take a 2-1 match lead.
Alabama got off to a hot start in set four, leading 6-1 after a 4-0 run capped by a Brittany Thomas service ace as Auburn took an early timeout. Leading by the same margin later, 14-9, Alabama saw its lead cut in half as the Tide was forced to take a timeout and stop the Tigers' momentum with the score 14-12. Holding a slim 16-15 lead, back-to-back blocks up the middle by Leah Lawrence gave Alabama a three-point lead as Auburn took a timeout down 18-15. Alabama would hold on to win the set, 25-20, to force a deciding fifth set.
After a close start to the fifth, Alabama stretched ahead to a four-point lead at the mid-set switch, 8-4. The Tigers narrowed the deficit to just one point, scoring three-straight after the switch as the Tide took a timeout up 8-7. A 4-1 run for Alabama, including a kill and block by Thomas, made it 12-8 as Auburn took its final timeout and the Tide closed out the frame with three-straight kills to win, 15-8, and complete the five-set comeback.
Next up, Alabama travels to Gainesville to face the No. 6 Florida Gators (22-2, 12-1 SEC) on Sunday, Nov. 13. The match is set to start at 1 p.m. CT and will air live on SEC Network.