HOUSTON - Desiree Elliott and Madie Jones combined to blast 21 kills as the LSU volleyball team put together its most complete performance on the young season during a 3-0 sweep over Rice (25-16, 25-15, 25-21) Friday to open the relocated Tiger Classic at Fox Gym on the Rice campus.
LSU (2-2) won its second consecutive match and improved to 18-3 all-time versus Rice (2-3). Malorie Pardo distributed 35 assists and notched four kills on her five attempts. The Tigers connected for a season-high .295 team percentage, recorded nine blocks, smacked a season-best seven aces and tallied a season-best 77 percent sideout efficiency.
"This type of effort is us," head coach Fran Flory said. "Certainly, I'm proud of how we executed across the board in all phases. We reinvented and found ourselves during this last week of practice. When you have to adapt, it's a challenge to keep the continuity and focus of our team. You have to credit our upperclassmen for channeling everything in the right direction."
Elliott crushed 11 kills on a .562 hitting clip and added four blocks, while Jones powered home 10 kills. Khourtni Fears chipped in a career-high eight kills and tacked on four blocks. Cati Leak filled up the box score with six kills, four digs, three blocks and two aces.
"I thought Desiree had a decent weekend at Texas," Flory said. "She played very hard, but we just couldn't create enough opportunities for her. The fact we were able to control the first contact well enough to get her involved into a major offensive role was key. When her offense is rolling, her blocking also jumps to a high level."
Defensively, Meghan Mannari reeled in a match-best 13 digs and fired in two aces. She has reached double figure scoops in three of four matches this season.
Rice was led by Nancy Cole's seven kills, Megan Murphy's 24 assists and Daniela Arenas' 11 digs.
LSU fired out to an 11-5 advantage to open set one on a Helen Boyle ace. The Tigers continued to push points and stretched their lead to 21-10 on an Elliott spike. A Leak kill capped the stanza and a 25-16 opening set triumph.
The two teams split the first 26 points of the second set before LSU strung together a strong 12-2 finishing kick. The Tigers started the flurry with four straight points as Pardo sent over a second contact kill followed by a Rice attack error, a Jones block and an Elliott spike to make it 17-13. After an Owl sideout, Jones exploded for three kills sandwiched between a Fears spike to give LSU a 21-14 edge. Fears was involved in three blocks down the stretch to finish off the 25-15 win.
The third set featured 14 ties and four lead changes, the latest coming at 17-17. Jones broke the deadlock with a sideout spike coupled with a Sam Delahoussaye ace to give LSU a 19-17 edge. The Tigers converted on their final four sideout attempts and wrapped up the sweep with a Jones kill for the 25-21 victory.
"We were focused on turning it around this weekend after not playing our best last weekend," Elliott said. "I thought we put the pedal to the medal in the first two sets. We knew coming into the match that Rice was a very talented offensive and scrappy defensive team. Our goal was to turn our mistakes from last weekend into positives this weekend."
LSU returns to action later this evening versus No. 12 Washington, a 3-0 winner over No. 7 Purdue. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. with live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net.
"The Washington match is not only a bigger challenge in terms of experience but also size on the court," Flory said. "They're a big, physical team that plays way above the net. We know we have to be able to match up against these big, physical teams to get into and advance deep in the NCAA Tournament. That's why we chose this type of non-conference schedule."
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Admission to all 2012 home matches at the Maravich Center are free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program.