AUBURN, Ala.- Picking up its second victory in Southeastern Conference play in dominating fashion, Auburn volleyball (10-4, 2-2 SEC) claimed the series sweep over in-state rival Alabama (8-8, 0-4 SEC) by winning Sunday's finale in straight sets (25-19, 25-14, 25-18) at Auburn Arena.
The Tigers have now won back-to-back SEC games for the first time since knocking off Georgia and Mississippi State in back-to-back matches in November of 2018. Auburn has now won three straight matches against Alabama. It is the longest win streak against the Crimson Tide since the Tigers won six straight from 2009 to 2012.
"We didn't change the game plan," said head coach Brent Crouch. "We just executed at a higher level. We saw some places we could tweak and execute at a higher level. Blocking, we did even a little better today, if you can imagine that. We got a bunch of really good touches."
Offensively, the Tigers executed more efficiently in their second game against the Tide, closing the match with a .248 team hitting percentage. Graduate student Liz Reich led the way as she attacked at a smoking .435 clip. Reich finished with 11 kills on 23 attempts with just one error to pick up her second straight match with double-digit kills. She closed the night with four digs.
"Having this rivalry is so exciting," said Reich. "Both games were so fun, and the turnout was huge. Shout out to the crowd. It was awesome!"
Senior Rebekah Rath earned her second consecutive double-double as she led the team with 16 kills while adding 11 digs. Rath was strong at the service line with a pair of aces while also chipping in six blocks to close the match with 21.0 total points. Rath now has five double-doubles this season.
Senior Val Green added seven kills while seniors Tatum Shipes and Elif Su Yavuz rounded out the offense, combining for five kills.
Sophomore setter Jackie Barrett dished out 33 assists and added 11 digs for her ninth double-double for the season. Barrett was credited with a pair of blocks and one kill.
Defensively, four Tigers closed the match with double-digit digs. Joining Rath and Barrett, were freshman Fallan Lanham (10) and senior Bella Rosenthall (21). Rosenthall picked up her 14th career match with at least 20 digs with her performance in Sunday's finale.
Auburn's defense held Alabama to a 0.88 hitting percentage on Sunday. Contributing to that success once again was Auburn's play at the net. The Tigers totaled 11.0 team blocks, following its record-breaking performance on Saturday. Shipes once again led the team with seven total.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 5-2 lead thanks to a pair of kills and an ace from Rath followed by a block by Shipes. The Tide was able to cut the deficit to two with two quick kills. Auburn responded with a 5-0 run, 11-4, with two blocks apiece from Yavuz and Green. The Tide answered with help from a pair of Auburn errors and two kills, cutting the lead to 12-8. The two teams traded points until a kill from Green built Auburn's lead to five, 20-15. Spreading out the offense late, the Tigers inched closer with kills from Yavuz, Rath and Reich before Shipes and Rath ultimately sealed the set 25-19 with a block.
Auburn once again opened the set on a 5-2 run, showing dominance at the net with a pair of blocks from Shipes and Rath. The Tigers were able to stretch the lead to five, 10-5, with a service ace from Jordan Sinness highlighting the run. Following the ace, three Alabama attack errors and a Reich kill expanded the Tiger lead to 14-6. The two squads battled back and forth until freshman Kate Curtis delivered an ace to force an Alabama timeout, 19-11. Shipes put the team on her back nearing the conclusion of the set, recording two kills and a block to put the Tigers up big, 23-13. Green and Reich recorded consecutive kills to pick up the 25-14 set two victory.
Both teams showed fight early in the final stanza as neither was able to muster more than a two-point lead before the combo of Barrett and Shipes recorded a stuff to give the Tigers breathing room, 10-7. Rath preceded to deliver another Tiger ace, stretching the lead to four, 12-8. Both teams began to exchange blows before a Green kill kick started a 7-0 Auburn run, 21-12, highlighted by solo blocks from Rath and Yavuz and five Tiger kills. The Tide reversed momentum, forcing a 6-3 run in their favor, 24-16. The Tigers were able to seal the sweep thanks to a Tide service error at match point, 25-18.
The Tigers hit the road next weekend for a pair of matches in Fayetteville against Arkansas. The series begins on Saturday, Oct. 9 with a 5 p.m. CT first serve. Sunday's finale is set for 3 p.m. CT. Both matches will air on the SEC Network+.