Auburn, ALA. (EETV) - The Auburn Tigers went into the Blazer Invitational with a 5-0 winning streak. The Tigers start the tournament facing the home team, the UAB Blazers. After a strenuous five sets, Auburn added another win to their streak with a 3-2 (22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 15-7) win over the UAB Blazers.
The Tigers' young talent made a bold statement both offensively and defensively at the Blazer Invitational.
Freshman pin hitter Akasha Anderson led the Tigers' offense with a startling 24 kills and a total of four aces. Anderson set a career-high for kills (24), digs (14), and aces (4).
Following close behind, freshman pin hitter Madison Scheer had 13 kills. Although UAB had more kills than Auburn, the Tigers had only 12 errors compared to the Blazers' 29.
Auburn's defense was able to subdue UAB due to their strong blocking game.
Freshman middle blocker Kendal Kemp led Auburn in blocks with a staggering seven blocks as Freshmen pin hitter Bel Zimmerman followed with four.
Freshman libero Sarah Morton commanded the backline with 18 digs as Anderson and Freshman libero Zoe Slaughter trailed behind with 14 digs.
However, UAB refused to go down without a fight. Senior outside hitter Alex Kells led the Blazers' offense with 23 kills as Graduate outside hitter Maia Rackel followed with 19 kills.
On defense, sophomore defensive specialist Erin Powers commanded the court with a startling 25 digs.
However, Auburn solidified the win with Morton and sophomore libero Fallen Lanham's three aces and Anderson's 24th kill of the match.
On September 10, the Tigers faced their next opponent, the Trojans. The Auburn Tigers extended their winning streak to seven consecutive games with a 3-1 (25-16, 25-23, 23-25, 25-18) win over the Troy Trojans.
Auburn's serving started strong as sophomore setter Jordan Sinness and Zoe Slaughter led the team with two aces. Madison Scheer led the Tigers' offense with 17 kills, a career-high. Anderson trailed close behind with 13 kills.
On defense, junior middle blocker Chelsey Harmon led the Tigers' defense with a startling ten blocks while Anderson (5) and Zimmerman (4) followed close behind.
Harmon also set a career-best with her ten blocks, making her the only Tiger player to establish double-digits in blocks this season. Anderson set another career-high of four blocks. Sarah Morton was a star on the back row while setting a career-high of 25 digs as Sinness followed with ten digs.
After the Tigers won the first and second sets, Troy pushed back against Auburn for a win in the third set.
Sophomore outside hitter Tori Hester led the Trojans with 17 kills and matched Auburn's Scheer for kills. Junior middle hitter Julia Brooks and freshman outside hitter Amiah Butler followed with 12 and 11 kills.
Defensively, sophomore middle hitter Savannah Poling led Troy with four blocks as Brooks followed with three. Freshman defensive specialist Jaci Mesa snagged a season-high of 18 digs. Auburn fell behind Troy in kills (41-50); however, Troy made 29 errors compared to Auburn's 19.
Auburn commanded the lead early in the first and second sets against Troy. Even though the Trojans came out with the win in the third, the Tigers managed to solidify the win in the fourth set with their strong blocking game.
On September 11, the Auburn Tigers finished the tournament strong by winning their eighth consecutive game with a 3-0 win over the North Florida Ospreys (25-18, 25-16, 25-19).
Anderson led the Tigers' offense with 15 kills while Scheer followed behind with 12. Jackie Barrett and Cassidy Tanton led the team in aces (2).
Kemp led Auburn's defense with four blocks as Barrett and Harmon followed with three. Morton controlled the back row with a staggering 16 digs.
"The other piece we preach all the time is defense, defense, defense," Crouch comments, "They responded just like they did yesterday. When they are able to make adjustments on the fly and respond to what we're talking about bodes really well for the future."
Junior outside hitter Mahalia White led North Florida's offense with nine kills as sophomore outside hitter Kailey McKnight and freshman pin hitter Mackenzie Piester trailed close behind with five kills. Amy Burkhardt was able to stir up some offense with two serving aces.
Defensively, White, McKnight, and junior middle blocker Maddie Boyd each had one block. Junior libero and defensive specialist Rocio Moro (15) and junior setter Jenna Zimmermann (7) generated defense by leading the Ospreys in digs.
Overall, Auburn was able to dominate the UAB Invitational through their young talent's ability to capitalize on offensive chances and maintain a strong defense. The Tigers came out on top, with many players setting career highs.
"I thought it was a huge step forward. I could see our young players growing up on the court. This is the best team that we've played so far this year," Crouch states. "They were experienced and something different that we haven't seen before."
The Auburn Tigers play this Friday at 1:30 pm CT at the JSU Invitational against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles.