BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team participated in its annual media day festivities Wednesday on the fifth floor of the Athletic/Administration Building. Head coach Fran Flory was joined by defensive specialist Lauren Waclawczyk and middle blocker Michele Williams.
Under Flory, the defending six-time SEC Western Division champions are one of 18 programs in the nation to secure six consecutive NCAA Tournament bids. The Tigers have also spent 50 weeks inside the American Volleyball Coaches Association [AVCA] Top 25 poll since 2005.
LSU opens the season by welcoming Alcorn State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jacksonville State and 2010 NCAA Tournament participant Miami, Fla. to the Maravich Center for the Tiger Classic on Aug. 26-27.
Fans are encouraged to take advantage of the Geaux Free program for all matches this season compliments of The Advocate. The Tigers have compiled a 62-10 mark at home dating back to the 2005 season.
For all of the latest information on LSU volleyball, log on to http://www.lsusports.net/volleyball or follow the program's social media outlets at http://twitter.com/lsuvolleyball or LSU Volleyball on Facebook.
A transcript of the media day quotes is below.
VOLLEYBALL MEDIA DAY QUOTES - AUGUST 10, 2011
HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY
Opening Statement . . .
"Thank you all for being here. It's important for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to be in front of the media. We are very appreciative of the fact that you guys continue to show up and give us that attention. Our staff and certainly our players work really hard, that attention you give us is very warranted."
"The Geaux Free program is going to be a great event, especially for families. As a parent of two children myself, going to events can get expensive once you feed them popcorn, hot dogs and all of that. The great part is our administration identified that there was an opportunity to do something great for the community to provide two great family events with soccer and volleyball without having to pay to get in the door. Hopefully, the community will embrace that and come see some exciting events. The Maravich Center has been the site of many great volleyball matches and we're looking forward to more this fall against some quality opponents."
"The 2011 team arrived on campus Monday. We have [a combined] 11 freshmen and sophomores. We're a very young team, but we're very physically and athletically talented team. We're very excited about the future of the program. The key is we want to keep our run of six straight SEC West championships and six straight NCAA tournament appearances going. We're one of the few programs in the country that's been able to have that type of run. The pride associated with our players and staff of continuing that is going to carry us through this year."
"We will be very solid in four of the seven spots in our lineup that we know today. We have two of the best middle blockers in the country returning in Michele Williams and Desiree Elliot. Our outside hitter Madie Jones is going to be stepping into a huge role for us offensively. She's kind of been behind the scenes the last couple of years and now she's going to really carry the load. We had the emergence of Nicole Willis as a right side player this spring, and she has done a tremendous job of coming along. Experience level will hold her back a little bit [at the beginning of the season], but I think by the middle of the SEC play she'll become a true force in our conference."
"I think our biggest strength is going to be our ball control. Lauren Waclawczyk, our returning libero, along with Megan Mannari, Sam Delahoussaye and Brittany Steele understand the key is controlling the ball. In every sport, if you listen to coaches, controlling the ball is the key to success. It's the same story in our sport. Our first contact of the ball is the key. Those players have worked extremely hard over the summer putting extra time in the gym. They're passing a lot of balls in preseason. They're going to be the basis and foundation of our program. I have no doubt we'll be a great ball control team. Those are the teams that get to play deeper into December so we're very excited about that portion of it."
"Newcomers to the team include setter Shelby Pursley. She's a sophomore but sat behind Baton Rouge native Brittany Johnson, who had a great LSU career. Shelby hasn't really been in the fire yet. Malorie Pardo is a freshman coming in who's going to give Shelby Pursley a push for the starting job. Helen Boyle on the outside has had a great preseason and start to the fall. She's going to be a great ball control player and a solid offensive threat in our system. Avery Striebel, a medical redshirt freshman, is going to come into her own competing for the starting outside spot with Helen Boyle."
"I'm excited about what this team brings in the gym. They have a very high level of competitiveness, and they had very successful spring. Usually in volleyball, teams that have successful springs, have successful seasons because the confidence and competitiveness they bring carries over into the season. Our season starts August 26 and 27 with the Tiger Classic at the Maravich Center. There will be four great teams coming in to play a lot of volleyball. We hope with the Geaux Free program we'll have great attendance."
On the competition in the SEC...
"I personally think Ole Miss is probably the team to beat in the SEC West. The coaches' vote in terms of preseason picks comes out in the next week. Ole Miss has a great deal of players returning. They have a young lady, Allegra Wells, who played on the USA A2 program that I coached in this summer. She had a great run there. They have some people coming off injuries that were very physical, very very athletic players. Arkansas is also going to be another team to contend with with for sure. They have a big international influx of players coming in, and I think they'll make a nice run. Florida ended the season as the No. 1 team in the polls, and they didn't lose many players. In the conference, I think they'll be the team to beat. They return a core of players that are now seniors that when they came in as freshmen, they were lauded as the team that can win the national championship for Florida. This is their last shot, and I'm sure they're driven by that. [Reigning SEC Player of the Year] Kelly Murphy is an amazing player, and I'm glad we only have one more year against her."
On the junior class...
"I'm of the opinion that successful teams have successful junior classes. In volleyball, teams that win national championships and conference championships are teams that have junior classes with strong leadership, are athletically talented and driven. I think our junior class will drive us more that our two seniors. The influence of the junior class specifically Madie Jones and Meghan Mannari on how they perform and how they lead will be the defining factor for us."
On the challenges of the upcoming season...
"Experience is our biggest challenge this season. In previous years, we've had a veteran team when other teams in the league have been younger. This is the year that turns around. Ole Miss and Arkansas have a veteran team than we do in some key positions so it's up to us as a staff and our players to respond. We have the talent, but it's just going to be a matter of how well we can train and how well everyone responds."
On the freshmen and sophomores stepping up...
"I think the person that you all will talk the most about will be Nicole Willis. She's the one that will fill the stat sheet, puts the ball away and will be the one blocking for points. The hitting positions are the glory position in our sport. I think our setting position with either Shelby Pursley or Malorie Pardo will be the most important position on the court. At this point, we don't know who is going to be in that role."
On the team's chemistry . . .
"I think this could be one of tightest knit groups we've had here. There was a different feel about this group from our first team meal. Every team as they get together forms their own personality, but I credit the older players on the team with integrating the younger players into the team chemistry from day one. The upperclassmen are doing a tremendous job of making sure the team is a great team without being prompted by the coaches."
VOLLEYBALL PLAYER QUOTES
DEFENSIVE SPECIALIST LAUREN WACLAWCZYK
Initial thoughts on the season...
"I'm excited. Like she [head coach Fran Flory] said we have a lot of young kids, but I think upperclassmen have done a good job of preparing so hard for the season this spring and this summer. The upperclassmen are going to be very important in pushing the underclassmen and showing them what it takes to be successful this season. We know what it will take to keep our run of SEC West titles going and keeping those championship traditions that we want to stay with LSU volleyball alive."
On Coach Fran Flory...
"She's awesome, we always say she's a genius. She knows everything about volleyball. She had such great success this summer [winning a gold medal] with the USA A2 team. One of her strengths is she knows how to push each individual on how to get better. I think she's so good at knowing our strengths and weaknesses to make the team a success like she has had in so many years."
The battle for the setter position...
"It's Shelby [Pursley] and Malorie [Pardo] right now. Shelby has worked really hard this spring and has gotten extra reps in the summer. I know that Malorie's had great success with her high school and club teams. It's a battle right now. They're both extremely good vocal leaders. It's going to depend on which one if not both the coaching staff feels gives us the best opportunity to win."
Stepping into a senior leadership role...
"I'm excited. Michele [Williams] and I have gotten together. We have great things planned for not just on the court, but also outside the court. We're doing our best on not just showing the underclassmen around, but telling them "Hey, this is what LSU volleyball is all about."
MIDDLE BLOCKER MICHELE WILLIAMS
On the Geaux Free program for volleyball and soccer...
"I think it's a great idea, the more fans at our matches the better. The fans play a huge role and help us win when they're there to cheer us on. We're going to give it all that we've got this season, and their support really means a lot to us."
On complementing and playing with Desiree Elliott...
"We both run in the middle the same way. We're both really quick middles. Being a fast middle or being fast at volleyball and trying to out beat the other side with our quickness is how we tend to score. We try to push each other that way when we battle against each other on the other side of the net in practice."
On the younger members of the team...
"The freshmen that came in are all very talented players. Some are them are super tall, taller than me. The sophomores have worked hard in the spring and over the summer. Hopefully, that will carry over to the fall. Right now from our first three practices, we've been playing well together and trying to help the freshmen get acclimated."
On Coach Fran Flory's experience with the USA A2 national program...
"Coaching with the national program over the summer has already had an impact on her because she has changed the way she's coaching already. She talks about us playing above the net. We've already talked what we need to do, what works and what doesn't work. I think she learned a lot, and it's carrying over to help with us right now in preseason camp."