BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team will take on its first ranked opponent of the season as defending national champion and No. 4 Texas visit the Maravich Center for a rare October non-conference matchup. The last time the Tigers played a non-conference match in October was against Notre Dame, a five-set victory, during the 2007 season.
Saturday’s first serve is slated for 1 p.m., and the match will be televised by the Longhorn Network with Brenda VanLengen and Nell Fortner on the call. Live stats also will be inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Admission to all 2013 home matches is free compliments of the Advocate’s “Geaux Free” program. The first 750 fans will receive a LSU volleyball “Earn This” t-shirt and a set of 2013 trading cards.
Saturday’s match also is “Kids Day” with inflatables and face painting prematch on the Maravich Center Plaza. After the match, the Tigers will speak about what motivated them to pursue their athletics dreams as part of “Dads and Daughters Day”. For more information on how to sign up for the program, visit www.LSUsports.net/dadsanddaughters.
LSU (10-2, 0-1 SEC) is coming off a five-set loss to Georgia last Friday during its SEC opener and will look to end an 11-match losing streak to Texas (9-2, 3-0 Big 12) which dates back to the 1991 season. The Longhorns have won five straight matches which includes a pair of five-set wins over then No. 12 Nebraska and then No. 14 Illinois.
Texas is led by reigning AVCA All-America First-Team selections Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster. Both players have knocked hom over 3.00 kills per set and rank among the Big 12’s Top 10. On the front row, the Longhorns have Khat Bell, Molly McCage and Chiaka Ogbogu all posting over a block per set. Ogbogu and Bell also possess .405 and .324 hitting percentages, respectively. Sarah Palmer has reeled in a team-leading 3.70 digs per set, good enough for sixth place on the Big 12 leaderboard.
“There’s no better way to get back on the court than playing a team that you know is a great team coming onto your home court,” head coach Fran Flory said. “Texas is wonderful team – very talented, very big and very physical. They have everything they need coming off a national championship, and we’re excited to get the chance to play them. Our confidence was a little shaken after Georgia. I think getting in the gym and having the week to truly train, it’s allowed us to work on every aspect of our game. It’s been tough for the players not to be able to get back on the court and redeem themselves right away. Our team is ready for the challenge. It’s just going to be a matter of how well we control the ball, and how uncomfortable we can make Texas.”
The Tigers received season-best performances from Helen Boyle and Khourtni Fears during the Georgia match. Boyle earned the starting nod and provided 15 kills to go along with 17 digs in her most extended action of the season, while Fears buried 15 kills of her own on a .387 hitting clip. Both players have notched double figure kills in two of their last three outings.
“It’s great to have Helen back in the lineup,” Flory said. “We’ve brought her along slowly, and she knew it was going to take a while for her to recover. I think she’s ready to have a breakout season. She’s jumping out of the gym and playing really physical. Her arm is better than it’s even been.”
Malorie Pardo has come away with a team-leading seven double-doubles which includes a run of five straight double dips since the Miami match on Sept. 14. She has passed out 10.92 assists per set, fourth among SEC setters. She picked up a career-best 23 digs versus. The last LSU player other than a libero or defensive specialist to collect 20-plus digs in a match was Angela Bensend at TCU on Sept. 4, 2010.
LSU’s offense is led by Cati Leak’s 3.62 kills per set which rank eighth in the SEC. She saw limited action, one kill and two digs over one set, versus Georgia. She has registered 2.52 digs per set and compiled six double-doubles on the season.
Briana Holman continues to be among the SEC’s top freshmen. She has pounded 3.16 kills per set on a team-leading .361 hitting ratio. The Texas native has ripped 10-plus kills in each of her last 10 outings. Defensively, Holman not only holds the SEC’s top spot but ranks second nationally with an impressive 1.61 bocks per set.
Emily Ehrle, Desiree Elliott, Katie Lindelow, Madi Mahaffey and Katarina Raicevic each have chipped in over a kill per set for the Tigers. Lindelow has ripped an ace in 10 matches and her 0.38 per set average is fourth in the SEC.
Haley Smith has sparked LSU’s back row defense and corralled 4.03 digs per set over her last eight matches serving in the libero role. She is 156-of-160 on her reception attempts fueled by five consecutive perfect passer marks.
“Haley has become a stabilizing force for our back row and is such a good story,” Flory said. “She fought as a tryout person to make the team, earned her way onto scholarship last spring and now has the chance to be the starting libero. I mean, if there is ever a story of hard work gets you to where you want to be and you can earn your way into whatever situation, Haley is the story. She’s stabilized our passing, and I told her the biggest compliment anybody can give you is when teams serve away from her.”
LSU has earned 181 victories sparked by five 20-win seasons to go along with seven of the last eight SEC Western Division titles since 2005. The Tigers also are one of 34 programs to appear in six NCAA Tournaments during the previous eight-year stretch.
Desiree Elliott will continue LSU’s legacy of serving the community. She is teaming up with St. Vincent de Paul and Bishop Ott Shelter Program for her season-long senior class philanthropy project. The Tigers will be collecting items ranging from children’s clothes and shoes along with baby supplies and toys at every home match as part of the “Geaux Kids” initiative. Fans will be able to donate items inside the “Geaux Kids” boxes located at the Tiger Fan Zone.
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 and @lsuvb on Instagram.