BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team begins the final month of the regular season and wraps up a three-match SEC homestand as No. 5 Florida visits the Maravich Center for a Friday evening tit.
First serve is slated for 7 p.m. with live video and live stats available for Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live. Admission to all 2013 home matches is free compliments of the Advocate's “Geaux Free” program. The first 500 fans will receive a USB car charger.
Last time out, LSU (14-6, 3-3 SEC) ended a season’s long three-match losing streak with a 3-2 comeback victory over Arkansas to remain in seventh place in the SEC standings. The Tigers have won six of their eight five-set decisions this season.
“We’ve played our way into a potential NCAA postseason bid, but we have a lot of matches ahead of us,” head coach Fran Flory said. “I think this team understands that we are continuing to get better. We are building, and we haven’t truly found ourselves completely yet. That’s bad, and that’s good at the same time. We aren’t very solid, but we also aren’t very predictable. We are going to have to get a predictable lineup on the court. If they do their jobs and maintain their level, those positions will solidify. I expect that to happen. We’ve had a ton of opportunities for a lot of players. Now is the time to really step in and decide we are playing for December.”
Florida’s (20-2, 9-1 SEC) lone setbacks have come against then No. 1 Penn State (Sept. 8) and then No. 18 Missouri (Oct. 20). The Gators have the nation’s second-most potent offense with a .334 team hitting percentage and earned 16 of their 20 wins courtesy of sweeps. Chloe Mann, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, not only leads the SEC but holds the nation’s top spot with a .506 hitting clip.
UF’ pin hitters of Ziva Recek and Alex Holston have been stellar. Recek’s 3.52 kills per set are seventh, while Holston’s .430 hitting ratio is fourth on the SEC leaderboard. The Gators also have six players that have registered 10-plus aces led by Taylor Brauneis’ 0.41 per set average. On back row, Taylor Unroe has sprawled out for 4.20 digs per set, sixth-best in the SEC.
“Chloe Mann is one of the best middles ever in the SEC,” Flory said. “She had a stretch of no hitting errors for close to month earlier this season, that kind of stuff doesn’t happen. You have to credit their ball control and their setting as well because a hitter is only as good as their setter is. Holston gives them an efficient right side attack. We have a lot of respect for her. I think she’s a great player, a great person and I expect a great matchup with them. I think on our home court, our matches against Florida are always good. Our players respect them, and I think they respect our players.”
Malorie Pardo contributed her team-high 12th double-double of the season with 51 assists and 13 digs. She has racked up 0.85 blocks per set in SEC play and is the only setter to be ranked among the league’s Top 20. Her five blocks against Arkansas equaled a career-best.
Elliott’s 10 kills and .300 hitting clip came off the bench over the final three sets. She has ripped 10-plus kills in three of her last six outings and averaged 2.52 kills along with 0.74 blocks per set since returning to the middle blocker position. The Cypress, Texas native enters the Florida match 11 kills away from eclipsing Brittnee Cooper (2006-09) and Madie Jones (2009-12) for 15th place on LSU’s all-time list.
Holman also produced 10 kills on a .300 hitting ratio and added five of her nine blocks during the fifth set of the Arkansas victory. Her 1.53 blocks per set continues to pace the SEC and ranks fourth nationally, first among freshmen. Holman’s 124 total blocks are third-most by a freshman in program history for a single season.
Leak (13 kills, 18 digs) and Lindelow (10 kills, 10 digs) compiled double-doubles against Arkansas. The 18 scoops for Leak were a career-high. For the season, Leak has hammered a team-leading 3.19 kills per set which are 13th in the SEC rankings. Lindelow has amassed double dips in four of her last five outings.
“Desi is fast and dynamic,” Flory said. “We haven’t really been connecting very well with Desi. We felt like we needed to go with a bigger lineup in the middle, and that’s a choice we made. Against Arkansas, we thought she’s fast and she’s been successful against these guys in the past. Let’s throw her out there and see if she can change the momentum. It was nice to have a senior step on the court and have that kind of impact.”
Khourtni Fears (1.89), Helen Boyle (1.86), Emily Ehrle (1.68) and Katarina Raicevic (1.35) have each garnered over a kill per set for LSU. Fears tallied 10 kills and nine blocks versus No. 11 Missouri, while Boyle tacked on eight kills and 16 digs during the Arkansas match.
Haley Smith has picked up five 20-plus dig efforts on the season and her 3.76 per set average is 10th on the SEC leaderboard. She converted on all 43 of her reception attempts last weekend and garnered a perfect passer rating in four of her last five outings.
“We have changed practice, and I’m proud of their effort,” Flory said. “Each day for us is a match day. They are bringing that type of mental preparation along with the physical preparation, and that’s going to do nothing but make us a little better each time we step on the court. I think you are seeing that with the Missouri match, the Arkansas match and hopefully we can carry that into the Florida match.”
LSU has earned 185 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.
The Florida match marks the fourth of six “Attend & Win” matches where one fan will take home a Nike gear gift pack. To be eligible for the “Attend & Win” prizes, fans must stay through the entire match.
The “Friday Night Meal Deal” returns as LSU concessions will provide a special menu for only $7 per meal beginning at 6 p.m. inside the Courtside Club located at the Northwest entrance. To reserve a “Meal Deal” in advance, email email@example.com with the quantity of meals and names. The Florida match menu consists of seafood fettuccine and eggplant casserole.
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.