AUBURN, Ala. - The LSU volleyball team returns to the road and opens the second half of the SEC schedule Friday with its lone meeting of the 2012 season against Auburn.
First serve is slated for 7 p.m. inside the Student Activities Center, and a free live audio webcast will be available at LSUsports.net/live.
LSU (8-11, 4-6 SEC) will be looking to build on Sunday's 3-1 win over Alabama, while Auburn (13-6, 4-5 SEC) is coming off a pair of road shutout losses to Georgia and No. 11 Florida, respectively. The winner of Friday's match will have sole possession of third place in the SEC Western Division.
LSU has compiled a 38-11 all-time series advantage over Auburn highlighted by 21 consecutive victories since 2001. However, the two teams had six of their eight sets decided by three points or less as LSU claimed 3-1 victories during last season's meetings.
"They have two great outside hitters [Sarah Bullock and Katherine Culwell] and an experienced middle [Camila Jersonsky]," head coach Fran Flory said. "I think Rick Nold does a great job in training, and they're a great defensive team. Their offense has really come around, and they're an outside-oriented team which traditionally has given us a little bit of trouble. I think our offense, if we can get it rolling, we can cause them some trouble. That's going to be the story of the match - who can stay in system and who can control their things on their side of the net better than the other. I think that will be the determining factor."
LSU's back row has been spectacular and has amassed an SEC-leading 18.14 digs per set in conference play. Last time out, Meghan Mannari became the 12th player in program history to eclipse 1,000 career digs. She picked up 27 scoops, her second-highest season total, versus Alabama. Her 4.44 digs per set average would rank inside the SEC's Top 5 if Mannari met the statistical minimums.
Sam Delahoussaye has recorded double figure digs in a career-best 11 straight outings dating back to Sept. 8. She enters Friday's contest at Auburn 15 digs shy of reaching 1,000 for her career. The Madisonville native also has converted on 146 reception attempts over her last 10 appearances.
"The cool thing for Meghan was that she got to do it [reach 1,000 career digs] at home," Flory said. "It's too bad for Sam that she may reach this milestone on the road. For her to reach 1,000 digs and only play libero other than when Meghan got hurt earlier this season, what a great accomplishment for Sam and contribution to this program over the last four years. I think that's maybe more significant than when the liberos that have reached that. Sam and Meghan are best friends so it's pretty neat that they're doing this so close together."
Malorie Pardo has recorded 10.98 assists per set and fueled LSU's offense to 14.00 kills per set in league action; both feats are good enough for second place in the SEC rankings. She is 15 helpers away from becoming the eight player in program history to collect 2,000 career assists.
Pardo has sparked the trio of Helen Boyle, Desiree Elliott and Madie Jones to 10 or more kills in their last nine outings. All three players are among the SEC's Top 12 in kills per set in conference play.
Boyle has knocked down 134 of her 184 kills, 72.8 percent of her season total, during the nine-match run. Her 3.30 kills and 3.02 digs per set during league matches are 12th and 18th in the SEC rankings, respectively. The Boyle-Pardo tandem has produced seven double-doubles to tie for the conference lead in SEC play.
Elliott's 3.58 kills per set are ninth overall, and the second-most among middle blockers in the SEC. She is one of four juniors to be on the SEC's Top 10 active kills list. The Cypress, Texas, native has connected for a .284 hitting percentage to rank 12th on the SEC leaderboard.
Jones has posted her two of her highest season kills totals over her last three outings and has notched double digit kills in all eight of LSU's victories this season. She has vaulted into third place with a 3.98 per set average during SEC matches and needs 22 spikes to become the 19th member of the program's 1,000 career kills list.
"Madie has done so much for us over these last few matches, I couldn't be any prouder of her," Flory said. "She didn't have the start to the season that we expected her to have, or the start that she expected to have. It's a tribute to Madie that she's been so dedicated and disciplined to our program. She's just played at such a different level over the last couple of weeks. Everyone knows Madie is getting the ball, and she's still able to succeed at this level. Truly, that shows the special that Madie is."
Dating back to the 2005 season, LSU has racked up a 167-66 record and is one of 25 programs nationally to secure bids to six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.
The Tigers have collected seven consecutive SEC Western championships highlighted by the overall league championship in 2009. It's the second longest streak in SEC history, only behind Florida's 14-year run on top of the SEC's Eastern Division from 1995-2008.
Admission to all 2012 home matches at the Maravich Center is free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program. LSU's next home match is scheduled for Friday, October 26 versus SEC newcomer Texas A&M at 7 p.m.
At every home match, LSU will be collecting pet supplies at the fan zone as part of its "PAWS in the PMAC" campaign to benefit the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society.
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.