Hornets win five set thriller against Auburn



Alabama State University Hornets’ middle blocker Alexis Ratliff spikes the ball over two Auburn Tigers players in a five-set thriller.

Kendal Manns, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

The Alabama State University Hornets (3-12) defeated the Auburn University Tigers (8-3) 3-2 in a five-set thriller on Sept. 27.

The Hornets were coming off a win versus conference rival Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University in their first home match of the year. They went into this game being the underdogs but had a lot to prove. The team would have to be composed, focused and relentless to knock off a really good Tigers team. 

The first set was competitive, with both teams battling each other all the way through. After feeling each other out exchanging points in the first few minutes, the Hornets started gaining the upper hand going up 11-5 forcing an Auburn Tiger timeout. The Hornets’ head coach, Penny Lucas-White, implemented various lineups giving her team a great advantage from a matchup standpoint. 

After the timeout, the Tigers improved their teamwork and communication. They battled back to bring the Hornets’ lead down to two, forcing coach Lucas-White to take a timeout. The Hornets responded with their own run coming out of that timeout going up 18-13, courtesy of two kills from sophomore Jada Rhodes and blocks from junior Kalysia Bates and sophomore Lauren Hughes. Their play forced yet another timeout for the Tigers. The Hornets controlled the remainder of the set, winning 25-20. 

Auburn took over the second set taking a 9-5 lead early on. Coach Lucas-White called multiple timeouts in hopes of getting her team to rally, but the Tigers continued to keep them at bay. The Tigers went on several runs throughout the set and the Hornets could not respond. Auburn went on to win 25-13, tying the match at one apiece. 

Auburn picked up where they left off in the third, exploiting weak spots in the Hornets side of the court. Despite going down 4-1 early, the Hornets stormed back, bringing the Tigers’ lead to one at 6-5. Auburn took control and maintained it throughout the rest of the set. They won 25-15 and put themselves in a prime position to win the match in the next set. 

With their backs against the wall, the Hornets needed to have their best set of the night. Early on, they started stringing together a couple of kills and took advantage of the Tigers, who looked out of sync, taking a 4-1 lead. After trading points, the Tigers took an 11-9 lead, forcing an ASU timeout. The Hornets responded and took a 16-15 lead after a kill from Rhodes, forcing Auburn to take a timeout this time. 

The teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the set and found themselves tied up at 24. A Tiger error would be costly, allowing the Hornets to take the lead. This error set up a statement kill from junior Alexis Ratliff, giving the Hornets the 26-24 win, earning a deafening cheer from the crowd. With the match tied at 2-2, the teams would go into a final fifth set. 

Like most of the matches, the final set was highly competitive. The teams tied on 12 occasions and had four lead changes. Both teams demonstrated great athleticism, communication and coordination as they battled through the set. Momentum shifted between the teams after every possession. The Hornets took an 11-9 lead and appeared to be in a prime position to win, but the Tigers rallied back and tied the set at 11 apiece. 

With the crowd on the edge of their seats, the teams continued to trade blows with each other. After taking a 15-14 lead from another Tiger attack error, Ratliff recorded another kill on an assist from senior setter McKenzie Boland giving the Hornets the 16-14 win and completing the upset. 

Many Hornets stood out in this game. In her fifth consecutive double-digit kill game, Rhodes had a phenomenal showing, recording a career-high 21 kills. The Tallahassee native also recorded eight digs, an ace and a block. Junior Emersen Belles led the team in digs with 14 on the night and recorded four assists and two aces. Sophomore A’Nylah Cobb was not too far behind Belles, logging 11 digs and three kills. 

Bates and Ratliff were crucial to the team’s win as well. Bates finished with 11 kills and two blocks. Ratliff finished with eight kills and four digs, along with delivering the game-winning kill to take the match. 

The Hornets look to continue their momentum as they host Mississippi Valley State University Oct. 3 at 4 p.m.