BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas –Overcoming a seven-point deficit to take the opening set, Auburn volleyball (12-10, 4-8 SEC) pushed Texas A&M (12-9, 5-6 SEC) to the brink Thursday night at Reed Arena, but the Aggies held on to squeak out a 3-2 (29-27, 17-25, 25-20, 14-25, 12-15) victory.
Rebekah Rath was the workhorse for the Auburn offense as the junior turned in a match-leading 22 kills. Rath recorded 84 of Auburn’s 182 attacking attempts in the match. With her performance, Rath’s season kill total stands at 365, jumping her to third in Auburn single-season history. Rath added three digs and a pair of blocks.
Rath also highlighted a strong performance from the Tigers at the service as she recorded a season-high three aces. As a team, Auburn totaled nine aces in the match. Senior Elif Yavuz and sophomore Jackie Barrett each chipped in two aces from the service line.
Offensively, graduate student Liz Reich added nine kills for the Tigers. She also set a season high with six digs and was credited with a block. Senior Val Green totaled eight kills in the match, while adding an assist, one block and six digs. From the middle, Yavuz and senior Tatum Shipes combined for 10 kills. Yavuz landed her six kills on 13 swings for a .385 hitting percentage.
Starting setter Barrett dished out 38 assists for the Tigers while picking up 13 digs for her 14th double-double of the season. Barrett was also credited with a pair of kills and two blocks.
At the net, Auburn was limited to just six total blocks. Shipes and Yavuz were each credited with three block assists to lead the Tigers. Shipes has totaled 104 block assists this season and is now just five shy of setting the program’s single-season record for the rally-scoring era.
It was a career night defensively for freshman Fallan Lanham as she led the Tigers with 17 digs. Senior Bella Rosenthall chipped in 12 while freshman Katie Curtis rounded out the double-digit dig effort with 11.
It was all Texas A&M early as the Aggies used aggressive offense and blocks to build a 7-1 lead. Aggie errors kept the Tigers in the set, however, as Auburn used a pair of kills from Reich to close the gap, 15-9. Reich continued her hot-hitting offense to spark a 3-0 Tiger to cut the Aggie lead to three points. Texas A&M answered with a 4-0 run of its own and looked poised to win the set with its 20-13 advantage, but Auburn continued to battle. Shipes and Rath delivered back-to-back kills followed by a Tiger service ace. Strong serves from Barrett landed for a pair of aces as two additional Tiger kills would pull Auburn within one, 21-22. Texas A&M would have set point after back-to-back kills that forced a Tiger timeout. Following the timeout, the two squads would trade points for three late ties before an Aggie service error gave the advantage to Auburn. Green put the set away, 29-27, with a kill.
Auburn stormed out to a 3-0 lead with help of a strong run at the service line by Yavuz. The Aggies battled from behind to tie the set at 5-5 before using a 7-1 run to build their lead. Auburn would chip away behind kills from Green and Yavuz, but Texas A&M answered with a 4-0 run, pushing its lead to 17-8. After trading kills, attack errors plagued the Aggies down the stretch, allowing Auburn to cut the score to 22-16. Auburn was able to fight off set point, but a service error gave Texas A&M a 25-17 victory.
It was a tight set in the early stages with the two squads trading five ties. With the match tied at 8-all, Auburn reeled off a 7-0 run that featured kills from Rath and Barrett and a timely Tiger block to build a 15-8 Auburn advantage. The Aggies answered with a kill from Madison Bower, but the Tigers responded with three kills of their own to push the lead to 10 points. The Aggies found their offensive rhythm to go on a late run to cut the lead to 23-18 before Rath hammered home a kill for set point. Texas A&M fought off a pair of set points before an Aggie attack error delivered the 25-20 Auburn set victory.
Four Aggie kills and an Auburn attack error set the tone early in set four. The Texas A&M defense held Auburn to five kills in the set to keep the Tigers from chipping away at the lead. Auburn did find success at the service line in the fourth stanza with four service aces as a team. Two of the four aces came from Rath midway in the set. Texas A&M would tie the match at two sets a piece with a 25-14 set victory.
Auburn countered Texas A&M’s early lead to tie the set at 3-all with a Reich kill. Texas A&M responded with pair of kills to build a three-point lead. Auburn continued to hang tough with four kills from three different Tigers to keep the Aggies lead to three points. After a successful Auburn challenge, the Tigers were able to land a late kill from Rath to cut the Aggies lead to two points, but Ciera Hecht put the set away, 15-12, with a match-winning kill.
Auburn will have a rematch with the Aggies Friday night at Reed Arena. First serve on SEC Network+ is set for 6 p.m. CT.