BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team begins a weekend road swing and looks to continue its winning ways as the Tigers travel to Auburn for a Friday evening matchup at Auburn Arena.
Friday’s first serve is on-tap for 7:30 p.m., and the match will be televised by Fox Sports Network (Channel 1038 HD in Baton Rouge) and SportSouth along with http://www.watchespn.com/ outside the SEC regional blackout. Free live audio and live stats also will be inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
LSU (13-3, 3-1 SEC) notched victories over Texas A&M, Ole Miss and Mississippi State during a five-day span last week to move into fourth place in the SEC standings. The Tigers have garnered 13 wins to already surpass their 2012 season total.
Last time out, Auburn (10-7, 1-4 SEC) ended a six-match losing streak with a four-set victory over Ole Miss on Sunday. The Tigers are being led by Katherine Culwell’s 3.27 kills and Camila Jersonsky’s 2.63 kills per set. Both players are ranked among the SEC’s Top 10 kills list for active players. Jersonsky has averaged a team-leading 0.94 blocks per set, while Sarah Wroblicky has sprawled out for a team-high 4.32 digs per set which also are fifth in the SEC. During the Ole Miss win on Sunday, Wroblicky became the 10th member of Auburn’s 1,000 career dig club.
LSU holds a 39-11 all-time series lead and has won 22 consecutive meetings over Auburn going back to the 2001 season. However, 10 of the previous 12 sets between the two teams have been decided by four points or less.
“Going into the season, I thought Auburn was going to be very good,” head coach Fran Flory said. “They proved it right off the bat and beat Nebraska on opening weekend. They had a little downward slide, but everybody is going to have that at some point during the season. They are back to playing really well. We are going to have to go in and be very prepared for their veteran team.”
LSU’s offense is coming off an efficient week where Malorie Pardo fueled the Tigers to 14.17 kills per set and a .277 hitting percentage during its three wins last week. She set LSU to its third .300-plus effort and became the fifth player in program history to eclipse 3,000 assists during the Mississippi State match. For the season, Pardo has handed out 10.87 assists per set which is fourth among SEC setters.
Briana Holman turned in a banner week and powered home 3.83 kills per set on a .417 hitting ratio. She took home the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week award earlier this week and is only the second freshman in program history to earn the honor. Holman also has registered a SEC-leading 1.53 blocks per set and ranks fifth nationally in that category.
In her return to the middle blocker position, Desiree Elliott has posted 2.58 kills, 1.33 digs and 0.58 blocks per set over her last three outings. She has ripped double digit kills twice and enters the Auburn match 23 kills away from moving past Michele Williams (2008-11) for 17th place on LSU’s all-time list.
LSU has relied on Helen Boyle, Cati Leak and Katie Lindelow for its outside attack. Leak has popped 10-plus kills in 10 of 16 matches en route to a team-high 3.38 kills per set which is good enough for ninth place on the SEC leaderboard. Her 15 kills against Ole Miss was her highest output since the Rice match on Sept. 7.
Boyle has earned the starting nod in three of LSU’s last five matches where she has posted 2.45 kills and 3.00 digs per set. She connected for a career-best .545 hitting percentage with six kills on 11 errorless swings during the Mississippi State match.
Lindelow has tallied 2.14 kills and 2.47 digs per set over her last 12 matches. She secured her fifth double-double of the season, 12 kills and 12 digs, versus Mississippi State. Lindelow has notched an ace in 11 of 16 outings highlighted by six multi-ace efforts.
LSU also has received over a kill per set from Emily Ehrle (1.91), Khourtni Fears (1.83), Katarina Raicevic (1.35) and Madi Mahaffey (1.00). Over her last three outings, Mahaffey has totaled nine kills on 14 swings with one error for a .571 hitting percentage to go along with seven blocks. Her 1.06 blocks per set are ninth in the SEC.
“Emily hasn’t been able to get in the lineup recently, but she had her best week of practice so I look for her to play a role pretty soon,” Flory said. “Her shoulder is feeling better again, and she’s kind of back on a role. Cati and Katie have done a great job of being workhorses. They play hard, and I’m proud of their efforts for sophomores stepping into that. Helen is getting healthier every week, and her ability to terminate is coming. Certainly, she’s jumping really well, but the endurance piece is just not quite there. Each week, we see another step forward. She’s going to be pretty special by the end of the season.”
LSU’s defense was superb as the Tigers limited their opponents to a .162 hitting ratio during its three matches last week.
Haley Smith has led the back row effort and stretched out for 3.86 digs per set to place her ninth in the SEC. She also extended her streak to 12 straight matches with double figure digs from the libero spot. Her 22 digs during the Mississippi State match are a season-best for a three-set SEC match.
“I think the biggest thing from last week that I was excited to see was the fact that we showed great resiliency on the road at Texas A&M,” Flory said. “The fact we were able to go into the locker room, regroup, come back and win, that’s a really positive step for our team. Then, we were able to come back and follow it up with back-to-back matches where we performed on a high level. That’s another really good sign for what is yet to come.”
LSU has earned 184 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.