No. 16 Volleyball Gears Up for South Carolina
BATON ROUGE - The No. 16 LSU volleyball team embarks on its final SEC home weekend Friday as South Carolina visits the Maravich Center. First serve is slated for 7 p.m.
LSU (23-3, 14-3 SEC) looks to bounce back from a 3-2 setback to Kentucky last time out. Entering the weekend, the Tigers hold a 1.5 match lead over Ole Miss in the SEC Western Division race.
"We had a great bounce back week at practice," head coach Fran Flory said. "Bouncing back physically is always important because the Tennessee-Kentucky road trip is a grind. What a fight both of those matches were. A couple of points at Kentucky could have turned the tide for us. It was a great learning experience for our group during a NCAA Tournament type weekend. Everyone is tired at this point in the season. We're going to have to play with great pride and great heart."
Brittney Johnson quarterbacks one of the SEC's most prolific offenses. The Tigers lead the way in kills, assists and digs per set during league play in addition to a third-place ranking in hitting percentage, blocks and opponent hitting percentage.
Johnson, the SEC's leader in assists, has garnered six of her team-leading 10 double-doubles in league play. LSU also has had at least three players notch double digit kills in 10 of its last 18 matches.
Desiree Elliott has ripped over a .300 hitting ratio in 12 of 17 SEC appearances. The Cypress, Texas, native has secured a quartet of SEC Freshman of the Week awards to join former All-Americans Marina Skender  and Lauren DeGirolamo  to reach that impressive feat.
Elliott powered home a career-best 20 kills at Kentucky and has fired in 10 or more kills in seven of her last 10 outings. She also has registered 1.16 blocks per set to rank third in the SEC.
Tania Schatow has hammered 38 kills and 27 blocks over her last seven matches. She connected for a season-best nine kills on a .562 mark at Kentucky, while her seven stuffs at No. 21 Tennessee equaled a season-high.
Michele Williams has compiled 3.15 kills per set on a .313 hitting percentage. She joins Florida's Kelly Murphy as the only players in the SEC to rank in the Top 10 of both categories. The Magnolia, Texas, product also has racked up the team's second-most blocks.
On the outside, Angela Bensend has knocked a team-high 352 kills and her 3.87 per set average is second in the SEC. She is looking to bounce back from a pair of negative hitting matches last weekend.
Madie Jones has reached 10 or more kills nine times during SEC action, while her .318 hitting percentage in league matches are just outside the SEC's Top 10.
LSU has strung together a 97 percent serve-receive effort along with a stout 65 percent sideout efficiency during SEC play. Lauren Waclawczyk's 4.13 digs per set anchor the defense and are sixth in the SEC. The junior libero also has run together 13-straight double digit dig performances.
Sam Delahoussaye and Meghan Mannari have come away with over 2.45 digs per set apiece en route to 23 double figure dig efforts on the season. Mannari has reeled in 51 digs during her last four matches.
"We put the numbers on the board everyday at practice," Flory said. "We teach and educate our players that's what you have to do to be successful. At this point in the season, they understand how to execute on top of knowing what it takes so we've really grown up and matured through the process. It's exciting to see them truly understand how to be a great team."
Earlier this season, LSU picked up a 3-0 sweep over the South Carolina in Columbia. Johnson charted 33 assists as the Tigers ripped a .434 team hitting percentage. Bensend contributed 11 kills, while Williams turned in 10 spikes on 13 swings for a career-high .769 hitting percentage.
The Gamecocks (7-20, 4-13 SEC) posted back-to-back victories over Alabama and Mississippi State last weekend. Hannah Lawing paces the league with 4.98 digs per set and is the reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week after a school-record 38 scoops against Mississippi State.
USC has been led in kills by Juliette Thévenin on 17 occasions after missing the opening weekend of the season. Her 3.58 per set ratio coupled with 0.29 aces per set rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the SEC rankings.
"South Carolina keeps getting better and better," Flory said. "I think they're closer to being the team that maybe all of us expected they would be at the beginning of the season. They're a dangerous team coming in here. We're the one match on their schedule that they can hang their hat on. The way we protect that is to come out, play confident, under control and show great composure."
Live video and live stats for Friday's match are available on LSUsports.net inside the Geaux Zone. Fans also can follow in-match updates at http://lsuvolleyball.posterous.com.