By: Ryan Hartwig (@RyanHartwig)
AUBURN, Ala. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) – The Green Bay volleyball team (3-2) knocked off host Auburn (4-1) Thursday night in a thrilling five-set road match at the Student Activities Center on the Auburn campus. It marked the third straight win for the Phoenix, which improved to 2-0 in the Auburn Active Ankle Challenge, and the first loss of the season for the Tigers of the Southeastern Conference.
The 27-29, 26-24, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12 victory was the first for the Phoenix against the Tigers (1-2 all-time), and it avenged the loss in last season’s Green Bay/Country Inn & Suites Tournament. Auburn started the year 4-0 and was coming off a recent win against No. 10 Nebraska on Aug. 31 – the program’s first over a top-10 opponent.
“What a great win for our team and for our program,” Green Bay head coach Michaela Franklin said. “It’s tough to go on the road and play a great team like Auburn on their home court and get a win, but we showed a lot of heart tonight and I love that about our team. It was everyone, not just the people on the court, who helped us get that win. We talk a lot about creating a home away from home with our team, and we really showed that tonight.”
Freshman Shannon Hurley (Connellsville, Penn.) led the Phoenix with a career-high 23 kills, hitting .311 for the match. Senior Leah Van Zeeland (Kaukauna, Wis.) recorded her third straight double-double, accumulating 16 kills and 11 digs, while sophomore Mikaela Gunderson (Casco, Wis.) continued her strong start to the season with a 12-kill effort.
Sophomore Emily Riese (Fond du Lac, Wis.) orchestrated the Phoenix offense with a season-best 61 assists, sophomore Jillian Bauer (Verona, Wis.) posted a match-high 27 digs and senior Katie Mroczenski (New Berlin, Wis.) added nine blocks in the win.
After a lopsided third set (25-17) that put Auburn ahead 2-1, Green Bay rallied to earn a 25-22 victory in the fourth and send the match into the deciding fifth set.
Auburn started fast in set four, going up 3-0 out of the gate, but the Phoenix quickly responded and was able to build a 17-12 lead thanks in part to a trio of kills by sophomore Taylor Kasal (Westmont, Ill.). The Tigers climbed all the way back to knot the score at 20-20 after one of Kathia Rud’s 16 kills, but the hosts were never able to regain the lead as Green Bay used three Hurley kills down the stretch to score five of the final seven points and tie the contest at 2-2.
The Phoenix never trailed in the fifth and final set, opening a 3-0 lead on a kill by Hurley and extending its advantage to five (7-2) on a Van Zeeland kill. A 9-2 Auburn run capped off by a Kia Bright kill tied the score at 11-11, but back-to-back kills by Hurley put the Phoenix up two and forced a Tigers’ timeout. An Auburn error out of the break gave the Phoenix a match point chance at 14-11, and Hurley eventually ended it at 15-12 with her 23rd kill of the night.
Hurley now has double-digit kill totals in three of her first five college contests and is averaging 3.47 kills per set.
“Shannon rebounded really well after a tough match this afternoon against Troy,” Franklin said. “She had a really good night not only hitting the ball, but was also a strong presence on the block. We really needed her tonight and I was happy with the way she turned things around.”
Green Bay had four chances to close out the extended opening set, but a combination of Phoenix errors and Auburn kills ultimately vaulted the Tigers to the 29-27 win. Back-to-back kills by Van Zeeland gave Green Bay a 24-22 lead, but a service error followed by a Stephanie Campbell kill evened the score at 24 apiece.
Kills by Van Zeeland and Gunderson gave the Phoenix leads of 25-24 and 26-25, but a Green Bay attack error and a kill by Rud put the Tigers on top 27-26. Hurley knotted the score once again at 27-27, but back-to-back Auburn points capped off by another Rud kill gave the home team the win. No team led by more than three in the opening set.
Set two was more of the same, as 25 points were not enough to settle it and neither team was able to gain more than a two-point advantage. Auburn had its largest lead at 20-18, but a pair of kills by Van Zeeland sparked a 4-0 Phoenix run that put the visitors up by two. A kill by Gunderson made it 23-21 and her solo block moments later put the Phoenix up 24-23. A Hurley kill gave Green Bay a 25-24 edge, and a double-block by Van Zeeland and Mroczenski secured the 26-24 win and evened the match at one game apiece.
In a change of pace from the first two sets, the third was more of a one-sided affair. The Tigers bolted out to a 12-5 lead and would not allow the Phoenix to get any closer than five the rest of the way. Green Bay started to close the gap, as a Hurley kill got it to 18-13, but back-to-back kills by Rud helped the Tigers regain control and cruise to the 25-17 win.
Green Bay out-hit Auburn .241 to .209 in the match and finished with a 13-4 advantage in blocks. The Phoenix hit an impressive .400 in the fifth, tallying 10 kills on 20 attempts.
Green Bay, which defeated Troy earlier in the day, will play its third and final match at the Auburn Active Ankle Challenge on Friday against Mercer at 5 p.m.
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