Volleyball Uses Balanced Effort to Outlast Georgia
ATHENS, Ga. – The LSU volleyball team used double-doubles from Helen Boyle, Cati Leak, Katie Lindelow and Malorie Pardo to secure a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Georgia [27-25, 20-25, 25-22, 21-25, 15-11] Friday at the Ramsey Center.
With the victory, LSU (15-7, 5-5 SEC) moved into a sixth-place tie with Arkansas and Auburn in the SEC standings. The Tigers have notched wins in 14 of the last 17 meetings over UGA (17-8, 7-6 SEC) since 2005 with three of those last four victories coming in five sets. It was only the Bulldogs second home loss in 12 matches this season.
Pardo handed out 56 assists to go along with 16 digs en route to her team-leading 14th double dip of the season. She fueled a quartet of hitters to double digit spikes as the Tigers connected for 66 kills and a .265 hitting percentage.
“As a coaching staff, we’ve kept saying that when we get everyone playing well and consistent at the same time we’re going to be awfully good,” head coach Fran Flory said. “Tonight was a huge step in that direction. Our pin hitters (Boyle, Leak and Lindelow) all did a great job of being creative offensively. They hit great shots and didn’t swing just to put the ball on the floor. They were shot makers and kill producers rather than being just physical players. Their volleyball mentality during this match is what you get when you learn to do those things. It’s a huge step in their maturation, and it goes back to Malorie creating the right swing for them.”
Briana Holman cranked a match-leading 17 kills, two shy of a career-high and tacked on seven blocks. She saved her best effort for the winner-take-all fifth set and powered home five kills on seven errorless swings during the frame.
LSU’s pin hitters of Boyle, Leak and Lindelow accounted for 40 kills, 40 digs and 12 blocks. All three players also garnered double-doubles for the Tigers.
Boyle slapped 14 kills and registered 12 digs to claim her first double dip since LSU’s SEC opener which also came against Georgia. Leak belted 14 kills on a .333 hitting ratio, reeled in 17 digs and matched a season’s best with five blocks whereas Lindelow picked up 12 kills, 11 digs, equaled a career-best five stuffs and converted on 36-of-37 of her reception attempts.
The Bulldogs were paced by Stacey Smith (13 kills), Brittany Northcutt (12 kills, 16 digs), Jasmine Eatmon (10 kills) and Lauren Teknipp (10 kills). UGA’s back row was sparked by Allison Summers’ 18 scoops.
“This win was very crucial for our team,” Pardo said. “We knew it was a big match, and I’m glad we were able to pull it off. This type of win is really going to help us get to where we want to be at the end of the season.”
LSU raced out to a 5-0 edge to open the fifth set. Holman provided two kills and was involved in two blocks to ignite the flurry. The Bulldogs answered back with five straight points of their own capped by a Northcutt ace. After trading the next six points, the Tigers broke the 8-8 deadlock with five of the next seven points to regain a 13-10 advantage aided by two kills each from Boyle and Holman. UGA sided out, but LSU closed out the 15-11 victory after a Bulldog service error coupled with a Smith ace.
“I’m really proud of how hard we fought especially in the fifth set,” Flory said. “We got up 5-0 and then they put a little pressure on us. We were trying to win the match with one or two touches. Typically when we have got into that type of attitude, we haven’t been able to stop and self-destructed. I’m amazing proud of how our players regained their composure and regrouped. Briana did a great job down the stretch, and you have to credit Malorie. They weren’t connecting, and it was a huge level of frustration during the middle of the match. Malorie was a great leader on the court for us and was able to create for Briana when we needed it the most.”
Georgia took a 10-6 lead to begin the opening set before the Tigers responded with five of the next six points to knot the score at 11-11. Lindelow and Leak buried back-to-back kills coupled with an Elliott-Leak block finished the run. The two teams went onto to trade eight ties and three lead changes down the stretch. All square at 23-23, Leak’s sideout spike pushed LSU to set point. The Bulldogs would go back ahead at 25-24, but consecutive Boyle kills followed by a Holman’s seventh spike of the frame vaulted LSU to the 27-25 comeback win. The Tigers racked up 21 kills and had five players come away with multiple kills.
Set two started with LSU jumping out to a 6-3 advantage as Leak nailed two kills and a block. UGA answered back with five quick points to turn the tables and grab an 8-6 edge. The Bulldogs never looked back and went up by as many as nine points at 24-15. LSU would stave off five set points, but an Elliott service errors enabled UGA to take a 25-20 decision.
Out of the locker room, LSU turned up the defensive intensity and forced the Bulldogs into seven early hitting errors to race out to a 12-4 lead. The Tigers would lead wire-to-wire, but UGA would creep as close as 24-22. An Elliott kill would seal the frame and push LSU ahead by a two sets to one margin. The Tigers committed only two attacking errors en route to match-best .433 hitting percentage.
Set four was mired by a combined 17 hitting miscues between the two teams. Deadlocked at 19-19, the Bulldogs got a Northcutt ace to take their first lead of the frame and used a strong finishing kick to tuck away the 25-21 victory.
Over the final three sets, LSU’s defense forced the Bulldogs into 24 of their 35 hitting errors for the match. It was the second-highest error total for UGA on the season.
“The box score isn’t going to reflect the effectiveness of how we served,” Flory said. “We served certain zones, and we created some great defensive opportunities when we needed to late in the match. We’ve worked extremely hard on our serving and talked before the match about we weren’t always going to serve for aces. By serving to those areas, that made them hit in certain zones on the net and in-front of certain blockers. The hitting errors were indicative of how we served not necessary of how well we blocked at times.”
LSU continues its stretch of five matches over a 10-day span and wraps up its weekend road swing with a Sunday matinee at No. 20 Kentucky. First serve is slated for 12 p.m. CT, and the match will be televised regionally by FSN South. Free live audio and live stats will be available inside the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net/live.
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.