In its inaugural season, LSU’s sand volleyball program walked away with a season of successes and lessons. Despite not qualifying for the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Championships earlier this month, the program shows immense potential for the coming seasons.
Indoor head coach Fran Flory served as the first-ever sand coach, and she welcomed associate head coach Russell Brock to the staff to lead the program.
“The improvement of the team was immeasurable,” Brock said. “The level that the girls were playing by the end of the season compared to the beginning was so different. Every single time we stepped in the sand against another school, our players were complimented on how far they came and how well they were playing. It truly is a testament to how much they cared and how hard they worked.”
The Tigers welcomed the first sand-specific players in sophomore Victoria Boraski, senior Kaitlin Hatcher, freshman Emma Hiller and senior Meghan Mannari, a former libero for the indoor program. LSU’s indoor team joined forces with the foursome following the completion of the indoor season.
“This group laid an unbelievable foundation for the program to build on,” Brock said. “There is no doubt that their attitudes and desires overcame their lack of experience and knowledge of the game. The example of willing themselves to success is something that we will look back on and use to continue to improve for years to come. I am so proud of the hard work that was done this season and the positive results.”
Mango’s Beach Volleyball served as the home site for the program, and LSU hosted its inaugural match against UL-Monroe on March 18 with a hard-fought 3-2 loss that came down to the final match and a deciding third set against the Warhawks.
Meghan Mannari and Katie Lindelow competed on court one throughout the season and led the team in victories with an overall 16-13 record. The pair captured the Silver bracket title at the Fiesta on Siesta Key after a nail-biting 2-1 triumph over Grand Canyon’s Mackenzie Phelps and Kelli Dallmann and advanced to the semifinal round of the Gold bracket in the FIU Surf & Turf.
“Meghan Mannari was really the heart and soul of our team,” Brock said. “No one who watched her play or train would have ever guessed that she had not been a competitive sand player her whole life. She worked so hard and was a tireless leader. Her example is one that we will always point back to for our future players. I only wish that we could have had her a few more years. However, we are very grateful to have had the opportunity to have her in our first year.”
The duo of Helen Boyle and Kaitlin Hatcher maintained the court-two spot and recorded a 14-12 season mark. Boyle and Hatcher advanced to the Silver bracket semifinals during the Fiesta on Siesta Key and competed in the quarterfinal round of the FIU Surf & Turf tournament Gold bracket.
Court three saw early success in Victoria Boraski and Cati Leak, as the pair tallied an 8-5 record and a six-match winning streak before Leak faced injury and did not compete for the remainder of the season. The duo went undefeated during the Gamecock Invitational, with wins against College of Charleston, Oregon, South Carolina and Mercer.
The team closed out the season hosting the Battle on the Bayou, where the Tigers picked up a 4-1 win against UAB and a close 3-2 loss to Tulane.
“This season was incredible,” Brock said. “I could not have asked for a better staff or a better group of players to initiate the program. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t look forward to getting out in the sand and training or playing. The team never complained and always worked and played hard. I cannot wait to get started again and look forward to many more incredible years with LSU sand volleyball.”
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