BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team recorded a season-high 18 blocks, but it wasn't enough as defending SEC champion Tennessee charged back to claim a 3-2 comeback victory [25-15, 24-26, 26-24, 21-25, 7-15] Wednesday in-front of an ESPNU national television audience and 1,421 fans at the Maravich Center.
The Tigers (7-11, 3-6 SEC) were unable to hold a 2-1 advantage for the second consecutive Wednesday, while Tennessee (12-5, 5-3 SEC) earned its third straight five-set victory. The Lady Vols grinded out a .193 to .161 hitting percentage edge and 106-105 digs advantage, respectively.
On the front row, Khourtni Fears was involved in 10 of LSU's 18 stuffs. Not only was the 10 blocks a career-best for Fears, but it marked the first time a LSU player recorded double digit stuffs since former All-American Brittnee Cooper accomplished the feat during the 2009 season.
"We worked real hard," head coach Fran Flory said. "This is the type of team we match up a little better against in terms of blocking. A matter of us being a little more discipline at some spots probably could have turned a few points for us. Khourtni (Fears) worked really hard this week, and has worked real hard over the last couple weeks. It was certainly a nice effort from our whole team."
Desiree Elliott garnered 20 kills on a team-leading .277 hitting percentage. She also recorded eight blocks and tallied a career-best eight digs. Madie Jones powered home 19 kills to go along with five digs and equaled a career-high with four blocks.
Helen Boyle cranked 13 kills and 14 digs, while Malorie Pardo tacked on 54 assists and a career-best 19 digs to compile their sixth doubles-doubles in their last eight outings. Cati Leak compiled a balanced effort with seven kills, 14 digs and a career-high seven blocks.
LSU's back row was fueled by Meghan Mannari, who sprawled out for a season-high 29 digs and moved within 14 scoops of reaching 1,000 career scoops. Sam Delahoussaye collected 12 digs and pulled to within 30 scoops of 1,000 career digs.
Tennessee was sparked by Tiffany Baker's match-leading 24 kills on a .250 hitting clip and added 10 digs. Kelsey Robinson registered 18 kills, 17 digs and nine blocks after entering the match halfway through the first set. In the process, Robinson eclipsed 1,000 career spikes.
Kayla Jeter [13 kills, 10 digs] and Mary Pollmiller [64 assists, 16 digs] gave the Lady Vols a quartet of players with double dips. Defensively, Ellen Mullins corralled a match-best 32 digs.
"It was awfully nice for Tennessee to be able to play the reigning SEC Player of the Year (Kelsey Robinson) off the bench," Flory said. "I thought that was the difference in the match, [she] made a significant contribution."
Tennessee powered home seven kills on 16 swings with only error en route to a .375 hitting percentage compared to LSU's six kills, eight errors and 24 swings for a negative .083 clip during the deciding fifth set.
Tied at 2-2, the Lady Vols garnered three straight points ignited by a Pollmiller kill followed by a block on Jones to build a 5-2 advantage. LSU drew back within a point on two separate occasions, the latest at 6-5 following a Jones spike. Tennessee reeled off nine of the final 11 points to secure the 15-7 triumph. The Lady Vols picked up three Baker kills, three blocks involving Robinson and forced the Tigers into two additional hitting miscues.
LSU wraps up its season's long four-match homestand Sunday against Alabama. First serve is scheduled for 1 p.m. inside the Maravich Center. Live video and live stats will be available inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net/live.
Admission to all 2012 home matches at the Maravich Center is free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program. 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.
Volleyball Postmatch Quotes
LSU vs. Tennessee - October 10, 2012
HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY
On tonight's match...
"We worked real hard. This is the type of team we match up a little better against in terms of blocking. A matter of us being a little more discipline at some spots probably could have turned a few points for us. Khourtni (Fears) worked really hard this week, and has worked real hard over the last couple weeks. It was certainly a nice effort from our whole team. I was proud of our blocking effort, and I thought our back court defense was awfully good as well."
"It was awfully nice for Tennessee to be able to play the reigning SEC Player of the Year (Kelsey Robinson) off the bench. I thought that was the difference in the match, [she] made a significant contribution. We were still able to balance the match out, and we still were able to have opportunities to win. Over the course of the match, we tried to win the match other than just continuing to execute. We had to win the serve-and-pass battle. At key points of the match, we didn't pass very well. We didn't create offense with our passing. I thought we backed off serving too. At the same time, I thought Tennessee did a great job of getting pressure on us. When we can't be efficient offensively because we are not passing to the target, we are going to get ourselves in trouble."
On the team's attitude during the game...
"This team has to have fun, there is no question about it. This group is a team that thrives on its light-hearted personality. We they play tense we lose our intensity. We have to play light-hearted and fast. We have to celebrate. Through the course of the match, we celebrated at times. However, late in sets the tensity went up instead of the intensity. When that happens, it is awfully hard to make those plays for this group."
On tonight's offensive performance ...
"(Cati) Leak has had a nice recovery. She is coming off of an abdominal strain. We are trying not to force her too much. I thought she took some nice swings especially early in the match. Overall, I thought she played a nice match. Late in sets, we couldn't get the ball back to her because we were passing into the left side of the court. When that happens, it's awfully hard for her to get a swing on the right side of the court. Give credit to Tennessee for putting us in those types of situations. I thought Desiree (Elliott) played a great match. I thought she was fairly efficient. They were stacking two or three people at her and at Madie Jones. If we could have been a little more efficient with those three people, we probably win this match."
On Meghan Mannari's performance...
"I thought Meghan (Mannari) played a great match. She did everything we could ask her to do. She made plays in right back when she is left back. She gave her heart tonight and was able to execute on the level that we needed somebody to execute on."
On Sunday's match with Alabama...
"They are an awfully improved team. They are coming in here with a much better record than in years past. They are going to come in here Sunday with a point to prove. They haven't won here in a while. We are aware of that, and we'll be ready for that match. We are going to rest up and get prepared. I think we will have a nice game plan put together. I think we will be a lot more balanced offensively than when we played them earlier in the season at their place."
OUTSIDE HITTER MADIE JONES
On tonight's match...
"It is very frustrating to lose in five sets when you could have won the match in three. That proves that we are a great team. We are able to play at a high level. We just aren't able to finish in key situations. That is something we need to work on. We definitely can improve.
"We didn't have a great mentality going into the fifth set during this match. It may have been because we gave up that big run at the end of the fourth set. We couldn't shake it off and start fresh for the fifth. That's something we need to learn. Once something is over, it's over. You start over and give everything you can."
On contributions from numerous players...
"At different times during the match, we rely on different people on the team to take us all on their shoulders and to carry us to the next point. I have great teammates that are all able to do that. I help them out sometimes when they need a break. It's a great team dynamic."
"Tennessee switched their lineup probably 80 times during that match. There were points when I think we didn't even know who was in the front row. Our coaches told us every time when they had a new hitter, where exactly to put our hands and what shots to take away."
On facing Alabama...
"I believe in this team with my whole heart. I know we can achieve any goal that we set. It starts Sunday, we need to bring a consistent level of intensity if we want to get revenge against Alabama."
LIBERO MEGAN MANNARI
On tonight's match...
"Tennessee switched their lineups an awful lot. They had a different amount of plays for every scenario. It was just a matter of who made more plays. It was going back-and-forth. At the end of sets two and four, they just seemed to make more plays than we did."
On her season-high 29 digs...
"I got a lot of help from the blockers. It was so easy to play defense behind him. The coaches told us where to be. I have to thank my coaches as well. They put us in the right position to make the best plays we could make."
On facing Alabama...
"We want a rematch after what happened earlier in the season. It is tough to lose a five-setter on Wednesday night. We just have to regroup, come back on Sunday and play a great match. Hopefully, we will be able to take care of business and get another win."