TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For the third time in as many seasons, Auburn Volleyball begins the season 5-0 as the Tigers knocked off Florida State, 3-1 (30-28, 25-21, 19-25, 25-23).
There isn't a vote separating Florida State and Auburn in the AVCA Coaches Poll and Sunday's first set showed why. The two programs went toe-to-toe, needing extra points to decide the frame.
Transfer Bella Bell is looking more and more comfortable in the Tiger offense. Three kills early from the Blythewood, South Carolina native kept Auburn from within striking distance. Bell would finish the afternoon with 13 kills on .414 hitting and two blocks.
As Barrett orchestrated another offensive attack with a hitting percentage over .300, the ever-confident Tigers kept clawing away. Even as the set drifted into extra points, Brent Crouch's crew refused to surrender.
It was Akasha Anderson who finally dealt the final blow, giving her team the 1-0 lead after an epic 30-28 first set.
Much like the first frame, there didn't seem to be much that could separate the Tigers and Seminoles. With both offenses operating at a high clip, somebody (or somebodies) was going to have to make a play.
For Auburn, that came in the form of Madison Scheer, Kendal Kemp and Bella Bell. The three-headed Orange and Blue monster simply would not be stopped. By the end of the second frame, the trio accounted for nine, eight and seven kills, respectively. z
All three were hitting north of .500 but it was Kemp's eight kills on 10 swings with just one error that were the most impressive. With both Barrett and Fallan Lanham putting the pedal to the metal at the bottom half of the frame, Auburn took the 2-0 lead.
Florida State wasn't about to go away quietly, though. The Seminoles opened the third set on a 5-1 run and looked to keep Auburn at arm's length during the entire frame.
Lanham dialed up another good serving run but .350 hitting from the home side was too much to overcome as the match drifted into set No. 4.
Once again, the Seminoles ventured off to a hot start to begin the fourth set. A steady dose of solid serve-receive led to over .400 hitting percentage and had Florida State eyeing a decisive fifth set.
Crouch and co. do not like to lose, though.
Down 19-14, Auburn rattled off something eerily similar to what the Tigers did against Georgia last October.
Kendal Kemp and Madison Scheer dialed up a massive block to get the rally going. Stout serving from Slaughter led to more defensive opportunities, ones the Tigers wouldn't pass up. Once Auburn took the lead 22-21, there was no looking back.
Bella Bell put the final nail in the coffin as Auburn took the match, 3-1, to remain undefeated at 5-0.
"Resiliency is the right word. They proved it last year time and time again. This one reminded me a little bit of our win last year against Georgia. Today was in the fourth, not the fifth but it was on the road. Florida State is a really good team. They swept Georgia last week.
"They made a change and put in a new player in the back to pass and were a lot better. We had to start going after their front row and outsides and it really changed things for them once we started doing it. They stopped killing us on the left. Then our team did what they needed to do.
"I keep saying every year. We have our expectations about where we are and then there is the level that we actually are. We are consistently beating where I think we should be. We're better now than I thought we'd be and we were better last fall than I thought we'd be. That's a testament to the hard work of the players. We have a chance to go undefeated in non-conference again and I will challenge the team to do it."
- Auburn begins the season 5-0 for the third straight season under Crouch
- The Tigers' win over Florida State was the third victory in program history and the first since 2018
- Auburn hit .356, making it five straight matches over .300 to start the season
- Akasha Anderson (15 kills) has had double-digit kills in all five matches this season
- Madison Scheer (14 kills) has had double-digit kills in four of the five matches this season
- Bella Bell (13 kills) has had at least 10 kills in four of the five matches this season
- Jackie Barrett (44 assists, 11 digs) recorded her second double-double of the season
The Tigers return to the Plains for a second non-conference tournament next weekend (Sept. 7-9) in Neville Arena. Auburn hosts Middle Tennessee, Charleston Southern and Mercer.