BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team opens a stretch of three matches over the next five days and looks to end a season’s long two-match losing streak when the Tigers travel to Texas A&M.
Wednesday’s first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the match will televised by ESPNU and on WatchESPN.com with Adam Amin and Maria Taylor set to call the action.
LSU (10-3, 0-1 SEC) and Texas A&M (9-5, 1-2 SEC) are meeting for only the second time as SEC rivals, but the two teams have had four of its last seven meetings dating back to the 2002 season go five sets.
“For LSU, having Texas A&M in the SEC just adds to the rivalry within our league,” head coach Fran Flory said. “It’s been an amazing long term rivalry against another great program. We have a lot of respect for their program, and there have been a lot of memorable matches that have occurred between the two teams over the years. We’re expecting another long battle on Wednesday night.”
Four of Texas A&M’s five losses have come versus AVCA Top 25 opponents. The Aggies are sparked by Allie Sawatzky, an All-SEC Preseason-Team selection. She has posted already four triple-doubles (assists, kills and digs) on the season. Her two top hitters are Sierra Patrick and Angela Lowak who rank among the SEC’s Top 15 with 3.49 and 3.20 kills per set, respectively.
Jazzmin Babers has paced A&M’s front row defense with 1.26 blocks per set to secure third place on the SEC leaderboard. From the libero spot, Kelsey Kinley is seventh in the SEC and has registered 3.98 digs per set.
“Their home court is definitely an advantage, and we know we have to prepare for that,” Flory said. “We’ve played there enough the years to know what to expect. Our young kids will take a little time to adapt. Allie Sawatzky is a great setter, one of the top two in the SEC. She’s very offensive and can really control the outcome of a match. We’re going to have to do a good job of trying to affect that in any way we can. Hopefully, we can take her out of her rhythm a little bit.”
Last time out, LSU was dealt a sweep by defending national champion and No. 4 Texas. The Tigers were limited to a season-low two blocks as Texas connected for 49 kills and a .347 hitting percentage. It was the first ranked opponent that LSU has played in 2013.
“I don’t think the scores were necessarily indicative of how well we played because Texas has pretty much dominated everybody they’ve played this season,” Flory said. “I think the negative of the match was we let them make too many runs on our hitting errors. The positive was the defensive side of the ball, our backcourt defense did a nice job of extending rallies. We got them into some long rallies, but we were not able to terminate. I take a little responsibility as a coach because we had our hitters thinking a little too much. We’ve corrected that, we’re going to ask them to be physical and athletic. You learn more from a loss than you do from a win and playing Texas was a great thing for us.”
Haley Smith has led LSU’s back row defense and reeled in a team-leading 3.66 digs per set. She has collected 10-plus digs in nine consecutive outings and notched a perfect passer rating in five of her last six outings at the libero spot.
Malorie Pardo has conducted LSU’s offense to 12.98 kills per set and her 10.85 assists per set rank fifth among SEC setters. She has pieced together six straight double-double dating back to the Miami match on Sept. 14. Her eight overall double dips are third in the SEC.
Cati Leak and Briana Holman continue to pace the Tiger attack with over three kills per set. Leak’s team-high 3.50 kills per set check in at eighth place on SEC leaderboard, while Holman has been a strong addition to the front row with a SEC-leading 1.54 blocks. The 1.54 blocks per set also are tied for second nationally. Holman recently had her run of 10 straight matches with double digit kills come to close versus No. 4 Texas.
Desiree Elliott has provided a balanced 2.29 kills, 2.10 digs and 0.52 blocks per set. She banged home seven kills on a team-best .353 hitting clip and added seven digs in her first extended action after an injury limited her playing time over the last three weekends.
LSU also has Helen Boyle, Emily Ehrle, Khourtni Fears, Katie Lindelow, Madi Mahaffey and Katarina Raicevic each averaging over a kill per set. Boyle and Fears tacked seven kills apiece during the Texas match whereas Lindelow’s 0.36 aces per set and Mahaffey’s 1.17 blocks per set are good enough for fourth place in the SEC.
“I think Desiree is finally healthy and back to being her old self,” Flory said. “The injury was to her left foot which is her takeoff foot and so much of her success is done off of one foot. We didn’t push her too fast, and we survived without her for a while. We have three very capable, and if you add Madi Mahaffey, four very capable players to can play in the middle. As a coach, that’s a nice luxury to have.”
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.