WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – After suffering a tough loss earlier in the day, the LSU volleyball team looked to end Friday on a better note, and did, getting the team’s first triple-double since 2008 in Malorie Pardo’s 40-assist, 11-dig, 10-kill effort, along with a host of other top performances to earn a comeback, 3-1 (16-25, 25-21, 25-22, 25-18), victory over the South Florida Bulls to earn a split on day one of the Mortar Board Premier.
In a bizarre opening set of the contest, the Tigers (1-1) made the case that it was going to roll over USF (0-2) after the first few minutes. But that quickly changed as the Bulls stormed back to take the set in convincing fashion. However the Tigers were able to weather the storm and in the next three played efficiently and remained determined in sweeping to close and earn their first win of the season.
“It’s a good start. Not a great start, but a good, solid start,” head coach Fran Flory said. “We did some really good things, we just didn’t sustain them long enough in the first match. We bounced back in the second match, but we knew we had some challenges coming into the weekend.”
After earning a double-double in the earlier match, senior setter Malorie Pardo did one better this time around, becoming the first player since Sam Dabbs to earn a triple-double in Purple and Gold, as the Texas native added two service aces and two blocks to the overall team effort. Although she earned double-digit assists in the third and fourth set, she was also strong on the attack as she hit a blistering .833 with no errors on 12 swings.
“I thought Malorie did a good job, and we had a talk between matches about making sure we were getting Bri more swings,” Flory said. “Setting our middles has to be the goal because that is what this team is built to do.”
Sophomore Briana Holman led all players with 16 kills, hitting .387 on the afternoon with three service aces, pair of digs and two blocks in the win. Cati Leak added 10 kills and 11 digs for her first double-double of the season.
After hitting just .088 in the first set, LSU went on to hit .257, .243 and commit just one attack error in the fourth for a .400 average to finish hitting .248 as a team. What was even more impressive was the group going 55-for-87 on sideouts, where in that final frame they were 16-of-18 (88 percent).
South Florida only had one player finish with double-digit kills in Erin Fairs’ 11, who earned a double-double with her team-leading 15 digs, as the Bulls hit .257 as a team. Natalia Soares led USF with 22 assists.
The Tigers exploded out of the gate going on a 4-0 run to set the tone early, but after that the balance shifted quickly as South Florida went on to outscore LSU 8-4 to tie the set at eight. From that point, the Bulls stole the momentum as LSU began to falter, as the team had just 12 kills total in the entire set. Holman had six of them, as South Florida committed just one error to fend off the Tigers as the team made a rally towards the middle of the set that fell short in the end with a 25-16 win.
LSU was much more balanced in the second, as five different players had no less than two kills, with three coming from Madi Mahaffey, Holman and Leak, with Katie Lindelow and Pardo having two each. There was just one tie in the entire set, that coming with the score at 3-3. The Tigers held strong throughout, but really pulled away by going on a 5-2 jaunt to take a 17-12 lead to force a USF timeout. The timeout didn’t help much as the Bulls called its second one four points later as LSU went up 20-13 to put USF on the brink. The Bulls battled back, but LSU proved to be too much and ended the set with an kill by Lindelow to knot the set at 1-1.
“I was proud of how Madi stepped in and did a nice, balanced job in what we asked her to do coming into the tournament,” Flory said.
The third was the most grueling with its eight ties and six lead changes, as LSU and USF were neck-and-neck for much of the early stages of the set, before the Bulls broke a 9-all tie with a three-point swing to make it 12-9. For the next dozen points or so, the Tigers spent most of their time clawing to within one or two before South Florida went on another small run. However, down 18-16, a 3-0 run for the Tigers thanks to kills from Mimi Eugene, Leak and a service ace gave them the lead and forced another USF timeout, but by that point the pendulum had swung LSU’s way and they closed out to go up 2-1.
“Mimi did a great job controlling the ball, passing and was very efficient with the opportunities she had offensively,” Flory said. “Cheyenne Wood came off the bench serving and passing and I’m just really proud of how our freshmen stepped up.”
Although the fourth was by far the best statistically for the team, LSU found itself needing to make another comeback to keep the match from going to five. Down 12-10, an attack error, two Holman aces and a Pardo kill quickly put the Tigers up 14-12. It was the start of a 6-1 rally by the Tigers that forced a Bulls timeout, but that lead would be all LSU needed to close out the match 25-18.
No. 14 San Diego 3, LSU 1
The LSU volleyball team had three players finish with double-digit kills led by Briana Holman’s 17 and .452 hitting percentage, but the 14th-ranked San Diego Toreros proved to be too much in the end defeating the Tigers 3-1 (24-26, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25) in the opening match for the team at the Purdue Mortar Board Premier on Friday afternoon.
In a match that featured 40 ties and 14 lead changes, LSU (0-1) hung tough with USD (1-0) from the opening set of the match, pushing the Toreros to the brink in three of the four sets, but San Diego was too balanced for LSU hitting .248 as a team with nine team blocks, hitting above .300 in three sets on the day.
“We’re going to get better with each match, but I think we have to have a better personality than what we showed today,” head coach Fran Flory said. “Not having Khourtni Fears in the lineup was a hole we knew we had to fill, but we will overcome and watching this match tonight will help us going forward.”
The sophomore Holman couldn’t have produced a better start in her second season as a Tiger, accounting for 21 points to lead the squad with her 17 kills and three service aces, while Cati Leak produced 13 and Helen Boyle chipping in 12.
One match would be all senior setter Malorie Pardo would need to earn her first double-double of the season as she dished out a game-high 46 assists with team-leading 17 digs for LSU. Haley Smith added 12, while Boyle finished a dig shy of her own double-double with nine, with Leak and Katie Lindelow each having seven.
San Diego only had two players finish with double figure kills, but it was enough as the Toreros’ Alaysia Brown had 21 and hit .378, while Candace Finley had 11 on 20 swings to just one error. 14 players played in the match for USD, with seven having at least four kills or more. Jianna Bonomi had 31 assists and 14 digs, while Hunter Jennings led all players with 21 digs.
With both teams trying to get an edge in the opening set, it was no surprise that this stanza would feature the most ties and lead changes (16-7), with LSU jumping out to an 8-5 lead, powered by a six-point swing, to force the first San Diego time out after Holman’s second service ace in three attempts. From that point, the two teams gained little ground as the set remained tense and tied throughout, leading to a thrilling end of the set as with the two sides tied at 20, USD scored six of the final 10 points to go up 1-0.
By far the worst set for both teams offensively was the second, featuring only 22 kills between the two, but it played into the Tigers’ hands as down four at 14-10 after a timeout, LSU went on a 4-0 run thanks to kills by Boyle and Leak, along with two attack errors by the Toreros to tie the set. From that point, LSU refused to back down and went on to outscore USD 5-3 to go up 19-17. LSU relinquished the lead just one more time, took advantage of more opposing attack errors to get to set point to force a Toreros timeout, needing just two more plays to knot the match at 1-1.
In the third LSU had its best offensive output on the afternoon hitting .389 on 19 kills, but it didn’t seem that way early as San Diego went on the attack from the jump leading 11-6 at one point early. Slowly, the Tigers began to chip away at the Toreros lead, and trailing 18-15, got a spark from Lindelow with consecutive kills to help power a 4-0 run in a 6-2 swing that allowed LSU to go on top 19-18. LSU got four kills each from Madi Mahaffey, Holman and Leak, but San Diego came back to life and refused to back down, helping force four ties before eventually breaking a 22-all draw on an LSU attack error. LSU would tie it up after a timeout, but it was the last point the team got as USD got the final two to go up 2-1.
The Tigers would have their work cut out for them in the final set, as after clawing back to pull within one of USD at 13-12, a six-point run by the Toreros seemed to put the match out of reach. However, a 4-0 run by LSU trailing 20-13 pulled the Tigers within three thanks to two USD errors and a pair of Holman kills. However, LSU would be unable to catch San Diego in the end, falling 25-21 to close the match.
LSU closes out the Mortar Board Premier against Purdue Saturday at 6 p.m.
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