LSU Downs Hartford in Dog Pound Challenge Opener
Communications Sr. Associate
STORRS, Conn. – The LSU Tigers volleyball team ran its season opening record to 4-0 with a 3-0 win over the Hartford Hawks Friday morning in the first of two LSU would play in the Dog Pound Challenge at the Guyer Gym on the UConn campus.
LSU won by scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-20 and will play host UConn in a 7 p.m. ET match (6 p.m. Baton Rouge time) this evening. The Tigers and Iona will play on Saturday morning.
LSU has now started the volleyball season 4-0 for the first time since 2013.
FLORY’S FINAL THOUGHTS
“I think this was a survive and advance match for us,” said LSU Coach Fran Flory. “We didn’t play particularly well. Our offense just wasn’t flowing very well. We allowed ourselves to kind of revert and be frustrated instead of attack minded. Hartford played well and made us earn points. We had to earn 17 points a set to win and that’s clean volleyball. When we understand how to be that team we just played and add our athleticism we are going to be pretty special, but we aren’t there yet.
“We truly do believe in ourselves, we just don’t know that yet. We aren’t there yet,” Flory said. “It’s the second week of the season. It’s nice to be able to get some people playing time. It means that we are deep. It means that if someone has an off night we are going to be able to fill in and be efficient and successful. It means that this team does really have a chance to be pretty good.”
The Tigers couldn’t sustain momentum in the first set despite getting out to a 14-11 advantage that forced Hartford’s first timeout. That lead went to 15-11 when Raigen Cianciulli had a service ace and eventually up to 19-13 forcing the Hawks to call their second and final timeout of the set. But up 20-14, Hartford got four straight to cut it the Tiger lead to 20-18 and forcing Coach Flory to call timeout. LSU was able to sustain the game the rest of the way for the 25-22 advantage.
Taylor Bannister had five kills, and Gina Tillis and Jacqui Armer combined for three each. Abby Nash led Hartford with three. But LSU did not have a crisp attach game with 10 errors and a hitting percentage of .169 compared to just three errors and a hitting percentage of .261 for the Hawks.
The second set had at least nine ties before Hartford was able to take an 18-15 lead, forcing a timeout by the Tigers. LSU was hitting minus at that point of the set, but the Tigers began to find their mark outscoring the Hawks, 10-2, to take the set, 25-20.
LSU would finish the set with six kills and no errors after having eight attack errors prior to the timeout. Hartford had just one kill and three errors the rest of game two.
LSU showed the “survive and advance” mentally in game one when Hartford came out firing to a 7-1 advantage forcing a timeout by LSU. The Tigers had four errors in their first eight attacks while Hartford was 2-of-4 hitting with no errors in the same time span. But LSU ended the Hawks best chance to take control of a set, tying the game at eight and then taking as much as a 14-9 lead. Hartford (0-4) would tie the set at 18, but LSU again allowed just two points the rest of the way in wrapping up the win in just under 90 minutes.
Sophomore Jacqui Armer had a team best nine kills in the match, hitting .238 (9-of-21, 4 errors) while freshman Taylor Bannister had eight kills. Olivia Beyer had seven and Gina Tillis had six as did Milan Stokes.
Stokes had the best hitting percentage of the group with just one error in 13 attempts to go with her six kills (.385). Abby Nash led Hartford with nine eight kills.
Beyer and Armer each had four block assists while Bannister and Tillis had three each.
Tillis, Cianciulli and Katie Kampen each had a service ace.
Over the last two sets, from when LSU was down 15-18 in the second and tied 18-18 in the third, LSU outscored Hartford a combined 17-4.
The last time LSU opened the season with four or more wins was 2010 when the Tigers went on a 13-match tear to start the season.
LSU and UConn will meet at Guyer Gym later at 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. Baton Rouge time) in the nightcap of the first day of the Dog Pound Challenge. LSU and UConn will meet for the third time with each team winning a game. UConn won last season in the LSU Invitational in three sets, 25-20, 25-18, 25-19.
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