TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Early Saturday afternoon featured a loud Orange and Blue block party on the Crimson Tide campus.
Auburn Volleyball's 16.5 blocks paved the way for a 3-1 (26-28, 25-22, 25-15, 25-15) win over rival Alabama.
It took a moment for the Tigers to find their footing in set number one. An early timeout from head coach Brent Crouch recentered the focus and recollected the Auburn effort.
Suddenly, Crouch's defense was flying around making plays. A pancake from Jackie Barrett here and a pair of blocks from Chelsey Harmon and Bel Zimmerman there and in a flash, the Tigers were right back in the set.
Freshman Madison Scheer led the way offensively, putting down eight kills on .500 hitting. Zimmerman and Akasha Anderson weren't far behind either, grabbing four apiece.
The Tigers fought off two set points at the end of the frame to tie the contest at 24. It seemed as though the two rivals were trading body blows at Forster Auditorium, and even though Alabama ultimately won the first, Auburn certainly secured some palpable momentum to take with them into the second.
And that's exactly what the Orange and Blue did.
Turning up the heat defensively, Auburn quickly took charge with junior middle blocker Chelsey Harmon right in the thick of it. By the time the second set ended, the Puyallup, Washington native claimed six blocks.
Scheer continued to be fearless in her attack. Piling up four more blocks in the second frame, the youngster was vital in keeping the Tide at arm's length.
As a team, Auburn kept Alabama to just .071 hitting. Juxtaposed with its .278 effort, the Tigers claimed the set to even the score at one.
Auburn's offensive showcase continued in the third. Anderson and Scheer swung away with confidence. Both hitters reached the 14-kill mark before the end of the set.
Not to be overshadowed, the Tiger's back row was doing all it could to turn things over for their hitters. Zoe Slaughter and Sarah Morton quickly launched into the double-figure dig total.
Even Anderson got her hands dirty defensively, carving out her second career double-double with 16 kills and 15 digs.
While Morton continued her streak of 10-plus digs in a match to nine, Slaughter piled up a new career-high with an astounding 22.
Anderson's eight kills on a .412 hitting percentage were too much for the Tide to handle in the third set as Auburn took the 2-1 lead.
Sensing blood in the water, the Tigers were not going to hold up. Setting up an Orange and Blue brick wall at the net, there wasn't much to dig out in the back row. Scheer, Anderson, Kemp, Barrett and Zimmerman were all in on the party as Auburn compiled 7.5 blocks, three of them from Kendal Kemp, in the fourth set alone to close out the contest.
The 3-1 victory keeps the Tiger's perfect record alive at 12-0.
- Auburn extends its program record start to the season to 12-0
- Saturday's win is the first time Auburn has won its SEC opener since 2017
- Auburn's 16.5 blocks were the second most this season, 0.5 shy of tying the program record for most in a four-set match
- The Tiger's 66 digs were the most in a four-set match this season
- Akash Anderson secured her second career double-double with 16 kills and 15 digs
- Her 15 digs were a career-high for the Freshman
- Sarah Morton collected double-digit digs (19) for the ninth straight game and 11th time this season
- Zoe Slaughter's 22 digs were a career-best for the freshman.
- Madison Scheer hit over .400 for the match for the sixth time this season
"I thought we came out with some nerves, which wasn't really surprising. With so many young players and it being their first SEC match on the road against our rival Alabama, I knew there would be nerves. They have a really good spin server but the reason we were down a bit early was how nervous we were. We settled down well, though, and had a chance to win that first set.
"As we got more and more comfortable, I thought everyone was able to settle down and play their way into the match. To win those last two sets, 25-15, wasn't necessarily what I was expecting but it was nice to see, especially on the defensive side of the ball."
On the blocking effort...
"I knew we would have a good opportunity to get some blocks today. Their offense is not the fastest tempo and gives us a little time to get set up. I thought there were blocks we left on the table early on. Our timing wasn't quite there but we made some nice adjustments and it really made a difference."
On Zoe Slaughter's big day...
"Zoe is amazing. She just reads the play so well. A bunch of her digs weren't off hard-driven balls. She made a ton of those plays too but she was reading the shots really well, picking up tips, cuts and rolls. That's about seeing and understanding the game. She has free rein to go where she thinks the ball is going to go. As long as we know she's looking at the things and reading the right things, she's continuing to perform well.
On Madison Scheer...
"She hit a ball in the third set that was about eight feet off the net and hit a sharp cross inside the ten-foot line on the other side. We had literally told her yesterday in practice to start working on that. That was an example of it but we saw it three or four times today. Now, if she can carry out our suggestions with no practice, things are looking for us and they are looking good for her."