BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team heads into the October portion of its schedule and takes on Georgia Wednesday at the Maravich Center in front of an ESPNU national television audience.
First serve is slated for 6 p.m. and fans will have the opportunity to "Geaux Free" to Wednesday's match compliments of the Advocate. Gates will open to the public one hour prior to first serve, and fans are encouraged to wear gold in support of the Tigers during the program's annual "Gold Match."
Wednesday's match also marks the first of two "Student Point" matches, and the first 500 students will receive the always popular "Gold Digger" t-shirt.
LSU has played 13 of its first 15 matches on the road, but will play seven of its next nine contests inside the friendly confines of the Maravich Center.
"Playing that many matches on the road doesn't just take a physical toll, it takes an emotional and mental toll," head coach Fran Flory said. "Our team has done a great job, and I am really proud of the way they have handled the up-and-downs of the season. We are fortunate to be a part of the ESPNU Wednesday Night volleyball package. What a great opportunity for our program, our fans and for Georgia."
LSU (6-9, 2-4 SEC) has picked up a 30-19 series advantage over Georgia (8-6, 2-3 SEC) highlighted by seven straight wins going back to the 2008 season. However, the Tigers had to erase six match points during the fifth set of last season's meeting in Athens.
Under second-year coach and New Orleans native, Lizzy Stemke, the Bulldogs have dropped four of their five road decisions in 2012 which includes a 3-0 decision at Missouri last time out.
Tirah Le'au has ripped a team-leading 3.02 kills per set, but it has been Briana Bahr that has paced UGA's offense during SEC action. The southpaw right-side hitter has totaled 56 kills at a 3.11 per set average on a .366 hitting clip. Brittany Northcutt has chipped in a balanced 2.72 kills and 2.78 digs per set as a six-rotation option.
Defensively, Elena Perri has collected 54 blocks, nearly half of Georgia's team total for the season. Allison Summers has corralled 4.35 digs per set, fifth-best on the SEC leaderboard.
"Georgia is an up-and-coming program with a great young coach in Lizzy Stemke," Flory said. "She was a great player in the state of Louisiana, and we welcome her back. This matchup is a difficult matchup. She has done a great job in getting better athletes in that program. They are a very disciplined group and are well coached."
LSU may welcome Meghan Mannari back into the fold after missing LSU's last six matches with an injury. She had ripped off 10 or more digs in her previous eight outings prior to the team's SEC opener and her 4.18 per set average would be ranked among the SEC's Top 10.
In Mannari's absence, Sam Delahoussaye has risen to the challenge at the libero position. She has secured her three highest dig totals of her career over LSU's last four matches. Her 33 scoops at Mississippi State tied the sixth-most digs in a single-match in program history.
Haley Smith has racked up double figure digs in three of her last four matches and has tripled her season total during the run. She registered consecutive 18-scoop efforts versus Kentucky and Missouri, LSU's lone home matches on the season.
"Certainly, it's going to take a little time to work Meghan back into the lineup when she's ready," Flory said. "We are picking and choosing when we practice her so we don't push her too much and have to pull her back. Sam and Haley are doing a tremendous job in the back row. We have some balance, but we can't wait to get Meghan back out there."
During LSU's last two victories, Malorie Pardo has fueled the Tigers to a pair of stellar fifth sets. LSU has buried 22 kills on a .345 hitting percentage during comeback victories over Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively. She has pieced together all four of her double-doubles in conference play.
Pardo has relied heavily on Helen Boyle, Desiree Elliott and Madie Jones during the first quarter of the SEC schedule. The trio has accounted for 76.1 percent of the team's kills and all three are ranked inside the SEC's Top 15 in kills per set.
Boyle cranked 15 kills on a career-best .483 hitting percentage during the Arkansas match, while Jones powered home a season's best 20 spikes during LSU's five-set triumph at Mississippi State. Elliott has strung together double digit kills in five straight matches and come away with 28 of her 46 blocks over her last seven outings dating back to Sept. 8.
"I think our team is certainly on the cusp of taking that next step," Flory said. "We started slowly, and we have made some real positive strides. If you look at our conference stats, we are climbing. We made a huge step last weekend. Malorie did a nice job of running the offense, and Helen has emerged as a true put away outside. We are becoming a much more balanced team."
Live video for Wednesday's match will be available at www.ESPN3.com or via the "Watch ESPN" app. Live stats will be carried inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live.
Wednesday is the second of four SEC Meal Deal matches. For only $7, LSU concessions will provide a special dinner starting at 6 p.m. inside the Courtside Club which is located at the Northwest Corridor entrance of the arena.
Fans can reserve their meals in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting Katie at (225) 578-5050 with the quantity of meals and names. The meals also will be available to walk-up customers on match day, but on a cash-only basis while supplies last.
At every home match, LSU will be collecting pet supplies at the fan zone as part of its "PAWS in the PMAC" campaign to benefit the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society.
Dating back to the 2005 season, LSU has racked up a 165-64 record and is one of 25 programs nationally to secure bids to six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.
The Tigers have collected seven consecutive SEC Western championships highlighted by the overall league championship in 2009. It's the second longest streak in SEC history, only behind Florida's 14-year run on top of the SEC's Eastern Division from 1995-2008.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger volleyball, visit www.lsusports.net/volleyball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuvolleyball along with @lsuvolleyball and @lsucoachfran on Twitter.