The Auburn Tigers season was cut short on Thursday afternoon by the Western Michigan Broncos. The Broncos defeated the Tigers in straight sets in the first round of the NCAA tournament to send Auburn home early (25-18, 25-17, 25-19).
Auburn reached the NCAA tournament for the second time in as many seasons under head coach Brent Crouch, but there would not be a magical run for the 2023 squad.
Seemingly rattled from the start, the Tigers fell in a quick 6-1 hole in the first set, and never regained their footing. Western Michigan would benefit from long scoring runs in each of the three sets to pull away with the sweep.
Western Michigan entered the match as the underdogs, but Auburn’s seed did not faze them. The Broncos, out of the Mid-American Conference, extended their win streak to 21 games in their victory.
Western Michigan was led by MAC setter of the year Logan Case, who put in a staggering 44 assists in just three sets. They would also enjoy big offensive outputs from Graduate outside hitter Maggie King and Senior outside hitter Anna Calcagno. They would each total 14 kills.
The experience of the Broncos team was certainly a factor, as 78% of their kills came from Seniors or Graduates. Western Michigan finished with an impressive .367 hitting percentage and 11 service aces.
For Auburn, the offense struggled to get anything going. Serve receive hurt the Tigers, as they were unable to convert on many sideout opportunities. They would finish with a sideout percentage of just .514.
In her final match as an Auburn Tiger, graduate student Kyla Swanson had arguably her best showing of the season. Swanson racked up seven kills on only eight swings. She would pair her offensive dominance with four blocks and three service aces, leading the team in both categories.
While it wasn’t the way Auburn and Brent Crouch wanted to go out, the Tigers had a record setting season. With two separate attendance records throughout the span of one season, it is safe to say volleyball is gaining prominence on the plains.
The Tigers will regroup for the 2024 season, returning a large portion of this season’s production. Auburn will return their team leaders in kills, digs, and blocks as they prepare for another historic season.