CORAL GABLES, Fla. – On a historic night where Dani Reis became the first volleyball player inducted into LSU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Tigers turned in a gritty performance to erase a two-set deficit and collect a dramatic 3-2 victory over Miami [23-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-10] Friday at the Knight Sports Complex.
With the victory, LSU (7-0) collected its second five-set victory on the young season versus a 2012 NCAA Tournament squad. It snapped an 18-match home winning streak for the Hurricanes (4-2) which dated back to Oct. 16, 2011 when Miami lost a four-set decision to Georgia Tech.
“Absolutely, a great night for our program,” head coach Fran Flory said. “We’re so proud of this team’s effort and so proud for Dani going into the Hall of Fame. Taking it back to Dani, I told the story of the 1990 Final Four team that was down 0-2 at Texas during the 10-minute break in between set two and three. They came back to win in a very similar environment in five to advance to the Final Four. I ask our players to pay tribute to Dani and that team to finish this match to have our program take a step tonight. I’m really proud the players for stepped up in a big way.”
Briana Holman garnered her second straight double-double for the Tigers. She powered home 12 kills on a crisp .476 hitting percentage and registered a career-high 14 blocks. The 14 stuffs were the most for a LSU player since former All-American Ivana Kuzmic against Houston on November 27, 2004.
Katie Lindelow led three LSU players in double figure kills. She turned in a solid all-around effort fueled by a career-high 14 kills, eight digs and a career-best five blocks. Cati Leak added 10 kills and eight digs, while Khourtni Fears picked up six kills on a .333 hitting clip and five blocks for the Tigers.
Once again, Malorie Pardo filled the stats sheet. She distributed 43 assists, nine digs, four blocks and three kills. The Tigers were limited to season-low .168 hitting ratio, but tallied a match-best .238 attack percentage during the winner-take-all fifth set.
In total, LSU racked up a season’s best 21 blocks and have tallied double digit blocks for the fourth time on the season. The last time the Tigers amassed 20 blocks was versus Denver on August 29, 2009. Madi Mahaffey equaled a career-high with nine blocks.
“The Mahaffey-Holman combination is just a big and physical block,” Flory said. “It’s awfully hard to get through them. The discipline of Madi is what leads to that block being successful. She’s done a tremendous job of the right side of shoring that up. Everybody has truly bought into our blocking philosophy.”
LSU’s back row defense was sparked by Haley Smith’s 22 digs, her second consecutive effort of over 20 scoops. Laura Whalen sprawled out for a career-best 16 digs and has reeled in 10 or more digs in five of her seven outings.
The Hurricanes were paced by double-doubles from Blair Fuentez (43 assists, 11 digs), Alex Johnson (19 kills, 10 digs), Savanah Leaf (18 kills, 10 digs).
“Tonight’s win showed the characteristics of this team,” Smith said. “It shows how we’ve come together, how we’ve meshed together and how we’ve play together. We support each other on and off the court. Our bench was alive and was helping just as much as the players on the court.”
After wiping away a two-set hole, LSU raced out to a 4-1 advantage aided by two Holman stuffs. The Tigers received three Leak kills and extended their lead to 9-4. Miami fired back with six of the next seven points and knotted the score at 10-10. LSU responded with the final five points of the match ignited by a Lindelow spike. The Tigers forced back-to-back hitting errors from the Hurricanes, while Holman and Mahaffey closed out the 15-10 victory with consecutive kills of their own.
“Cati struggled for the first four sets of the match, and I have to credit Malorie for making a veteran setter move. She changed the tempo, and they decided on the court together to get Cati some more time. That allowed Cati to pick her shots and turned the tide for her. I’m extremely proud of Malorie for going to Cati and asking her what she needed to be successful. The adaptability and maturity Malorie showed and a positive step for her being the leader of our offense.”
LSU began its comeback trial with the first three points of the third set. Pardo cranked an ace, and Holman knocked a quick kill sandwiched between a Miami hitting error. The Hurricanes charged back with nine of the next 11 points to snatch a 9-5 advantage. LSU regained the momentum behind five quick points and grabbed a 10-9 edge capped by consecutive stuff involving Fears. Miami retook the lead and arrived at 23-21, two points away from a sweep. The Tigers dug deep as Holman provided a key sideout spikes coupled with a pair of blocks to fuel a 25-23 win.
The two teams split the first 24 points of set four before the Tigers raced out to a 17-12 lead. LSU seized control sparked by a Leak kill, a Holman-Mahaffey block, a Lindelow ace, a Mahaffey spike and a Miami setting error. The Hurricanes drew within three points on three times, the latest at 19-16. The Tigers strung together Fears-Link-Lindelow kills to stretch its advantage to 22-16. LSU wrapped up the 25-20 triumph on Holman-Lindelow block.
“Everybody had the fight and the desire to win,” Pardo said. “I think we were trying a little bit too hard during those first two sets. We had to prove to ourselves that if we get into these types of situations, we have the ability to fight out of it and win. Again, this match is going to benefit us in the long run.”
Miami won the opening two sets by identical 25-23 margins. The two teams exchanged 21 ties and nine lead changes. The Hurricanes rode Johnson’s right arm to the deciding blow in the opening stanza followed by consecutive kills to close out the second set.
LSU will continue its eight-match road swing with another meeting with Miami. Saturday’s first serve is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. CT with live audio and live stats available for free inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
“This is very similar to a NCAA Tournament scenario where you will have to play back-to-back tough matches on consecutive days with a short turnaround,” Flory said. “The challenge is can we bring it at this level two nights in a row this early in the season. The mentality has to be that we’re going to play championship-level volleyball every time we step on the court regardless of what happened the night before. I thought we played tough-minded and gritty tonight.”
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