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Auburn volleyball falls to Missouri in thrilling, five-set fashion

The Auburn volleyball team went the distance with Missouri Sunday afternoon, reaching five sets in a match against the visiting black-and-gold Tigers before ultimately falling just short in a tight fifth and final set.

Trailing 2 sets to 1, the homestanding Tigers rallied back to win the fourth set before the visiting Missouri team edged Auburn, 15-13, to win the final set and the match.

Auburn finished on the better side of Missouri in almost every statistical category at the end of the match, recording more kills, more blocks, and more points scored.

Four Auburn Tigers finished with double-doubles in the match, led by senior outside hitter Sarah Bullock, who finished with 18 kills and 19 digs. Junior Katherine Culwell also put down 15 kills while picking up 11 digs. Chelsea Wintzinger finished with 34 assists and 10 digs, and Ciara Richards recorded 25 assists and 10 digs.

In the end, the match came down to just a few points in the fifth set, with the Tigers walking away with just their second loss at home this season.

“It’s one of those where we fought, and I like seeing that,” said Auburn volleyball head coach Rick Nold. “I don’t think we played our best by any means. For the first half of the match we didn’t pass the ball really well. Once we did, I thought we did a great job of pushing the ball up the middle. We thought we had an advantage there.

“It just comes down to a play here later at the end of the match. I was happy with how we fought back, but it was just one of those games.”

Friday’s 3-1 loss to LSU was just Auburn’s first loss at home in the Student Act this year. The Tigers have now hit a four-match losing skid, but they took a set from LSU on Friday and forced a fifth set against Missouri on Sunday after being swept in two matches the weekend before.

“We talk a lot about how it’s a process thing for us,” Nold said. “If you do everything based on result, then, you could win and play bad and you’re not really getting any better that way. If we could have had our passing from Friday here today, then we’ve got a good chance to win. And if we had the energy we had today on Friday we’d have had a good chance to win. You’ve got to put together a full match, and we’ve done a little bit of adding new things in here and there, and we’ve just got to put it all together.”

The loss drops Auburn to 13-8 on the season, 4-7 in SEC play. Next, the Tigers take to the road for a two-game away trip, traveling to South Carolina for a match Friday at 6 p.m., and to Ole Miss for a match Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

“So far, on the road, we haven’t responded the way I’d like to in terms of coming out really ready to play aggressively,” Nold said. “I think a lot of it is just the mindset of how you approach things. I’d really like to see that we come out and just play our game.

“Sometimes you embrace people being behind you and a crowd being behind you, and I think we need to learn how to get on the road and quiet some people up a little bit too.”

Related: California volleyball standout commits to Auburn by painting AU on her tortoise.

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