BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team held its annual media day Tuesday inside the media room of the LSU Basketball Practice Facility. Head coach Fran Flory was joined by middle blocker Desiree Elliott, outside hitter Katie Lindelow and setter Malorie Pardo.
The Tigers have collected 171 victories, an average of 21.4 wins per season, to go along with seven of the last eight SEC Western Division titles since 2005. LSU also is one of 34 programs to appear in six NCAA Tournaments during the previous eight-year stretch.
Elliott posted 3.40 kills per set, second on the team and second among SEC middle blockers. The 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year enters her senior campaign six kills away from reaching 1,000 and has led the Tigers in blocks during each of the last two seasons.
Pardo has started in 53 of 59 matches during her first two seasons at the setter position. She has dished out 2,285 career assists and heads into the season ranked seventh on LSU’s all-time list. She is the first player since Katie Kubena (2001 & 2002) to produce over 1,000 assists in consecutive seasons.
A group of five newcomers will strengthen the Tigers and also challenge for significant playing time. Emily Ehrle and Laura Whalen join the Tigers from Texas Tech and Texas State, while Briana Holman was listed among Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50.
LSU will hold its annual Purple & Gold Scrimmage on Saturday with first serve slated for 6 p.m. inside the Maravich Center. Admission to the scrimmage and the entire 2013 home schedule which features 13 matches beginning with the Tiger Classic on Aug. 30-31 are free compliments of The Advocate’s “Geaux Free” program.
Prior to the Purple & Gold Scrimmage, LSU will hold a free Kids Clinic where the Tigers will instruct basic skills beginning at 4 p.m. for children eighth grade and under. To reserve your spot, contact Lauren at email@example.com by Friday, Aug. 23 and include how many children will be attending the event. Check-in for the Kids Clinic starts at 3 p.m.
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.
A transcript of the media day quotes are below.
LSU Volleyball Media Day – August 20, 2013
HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY
Opening Statement …
“2013 is going to be a year of change for this program. It started in spring with a recommitment from our young players, mostly our freshman and sophomore classes. They are figuring out how to really be compelling and not just be committed to the program. What I mean by that is doing what is ask, but then doing that little extra that is going to make that big difference and put you in position where you are going to be successful regardless of the situation that you encounter as a team. These kids bought into this. The three players that are here with me today (Desiree Elliott, Katie Lindelow and Malorie Pardo) are the leaders of that group. They have done an amazing job.”
“On top of the successful spring, our administration allowed us to take an international tour. I can’t thank (Senior Woman Administrator) Miriam Segar and (Director of Athletics/Vice Chancellor) Joe Alleva enough for that. It was truly a trip of a lifetime for all of us, including the staff and myself. The learning that occurred on that trip is going to propel this program to the next level. In Europe, volleyball is played a little differently. It is not as much of a physical sport as much as it is a finesse and flow sport. That was the part of the game that our great athletes were missing. We didn’t understand the rhythm and flow of play. Having the chance to play with Slovenian national team in their training center two nights in a row, having the chance to play the junior national team from Italy in their training center and seeing what all those teams have was an unbelievable experience. It was truly an eye-opener for our team to understand how privileged they are to play at this university with these facilities and everything they have here.”
“We have come back to the gym with the best preseason I ever had at LSU, including the 2009 team who were the SEC champions. I’m not going to the table saying we are going to win the league, but I’m going to the table saying this team is going to be much improved. This team is ready for a very successful season. The competitiveness in the gym is really fun to coach. (Soccer Head Coach) Brian (Lee) has his lineup set, but I do not. We are another week away. We are putting them in drills to separate themselves these last few days, and we will continue to do that.”
“We have a great home schedule. We have Texas coming in, the defending national champions, on October 5. We start the 30 of August with our Tiger Classic with a very competitive tournament. UT (Texas)-San Antonio is our opening season match. It just happens that their coach Laura Groff was one of my teammates at Texas. It will be fun to coach against each other. UC Davis and San Diego State, who is receiving votes in the poll, will be great matches on our home court. The SEC is going to be tough as always. Florida is picked to win the overall league as they have been for many years. They are going to be ones to chase again. We were picked to win the SEC West Champions and share that title with Texas A&M. It is nice that the coaches recognize the growth in our program and the improvement that we are going to see.
The newcomers have been very impacting. We have five newcomers. Katarina Raicevic from Serbia adds another whole dimension to our team just that understanding of how to play the game in a different way. You can already see our players falling in with the way she plays. Briana Holman is going to be a special player. If you come and watch us, she hits high and hard. She hits it as hard as anybody I have ever coached, including Monique Adams, who is probably one of the hardest hitting player in LSU volleyball history. She is freshman. We aren’t going to ask her to carry a huge load, but she will become one of the greatest here I believe. She is special, but we have three others that are here too. Laura Whalen transferred in from Texas State. She is a defensive specialist. Katie Dunlap is a freshman who is also another defensive player. She has a concussion right now because she was hit by a Briana Holman ball. So now you can see things to come. Emily Ehrle is a transfer from Texas Tech who has great depth and may in fact be one of our starters on the outside.”
“The returners have done an amazing job. Our quarterback is Malorie Pardo. She has been that for the last two years. She has carried that and weathered a very difficult storm because everyone blames the quarterback when things don’t go right as we all know. It’s not all her job, but it is her responsibility. She understands that and having a junior step into that role, who has weathered that storm, I feel very confident that Malorie is going to have a tremendous year. Our lone senior is Desiree Elliott, All-SEC Preseason Team as chosen by the coaches. I am pretty excited to have her back on that team. She is somebody that every team has to prepare for. She is the fastest middle in the league and the best slide hitter, which means she jumps up off of one foot everywhere, I think probably in the country. She is amazing and her talents will not be lost in our offense. We have a slew of Katie’s. Katie Lindelow who is here today. We do not only recruit Katie’s, but it sure seems like that. Katie Lindelow, Mandeville player and local kid who we knew she would be great, was injured part of last year after she suffered an ACL knee injury during her senior year of high school. She is now back and ahead of the form we expected her to be. She is having a great preseason camp. She is going to be valuable in many roles.”
“I can go on and on about every player, but there are some special things we do as well. Our seniors chose the philanthropy (project) every year. Desi has decided that her passion is to help children and underprivileged people. So we are going to have a “Geaux Kids” program that people can bring and donate items for underprivileged families. We are going to partner with St. Vincent de Paul to do that. We are very excited about that.”
“We excited about our schedule, and we are excited about where this program is going. It is not usual for us to not end the season as SEC West Champions. It’s not usual for us not to be in that NCAA tournament and having a chance to compete for a national championship. This program is better than that. Certainly, our kids have returned with the passion and the drive to make sure at the end of the season we are still player through December.
On filling Meghan Mannari’s role at the libero position …
“Meghan was a great player and one of the greatest liberos we’ve had of all time. You don’t replace that. We’re going to have to have some people to step up into that role, and we will have to redefine ourselves. You have to reinvent your team every year based on the personnel that you have on the court. Katie Lindelow right now has done an amazing job so far passing and playing defense. She is the passer in the gym today. If I had a starting lineup today, she would be the starting libero out there today. She also hits so she’s not going to be stuck in that role forever. Laura Whalen who has transferred in from Texas State has played libero before and is experienced in that position. She will just need time to develop into our system. Katie Dunlap is another freshman that has come in and done a nice job. However, she is injured so it will set her back a bit. Haley Smith was the libero when we were on our Europe trip. She did an amazing job of passing huge areas of the court. She is a tenacious and feisty kid who is our ‘Rudy’. She walked on, and she earned her way last spring to become a scholarship player. It’s an amazing story of perseverance and success from her so I wouldn’t discount that she could be in that role as well. There are a lot of options but not much definition at this point.”
On the other position battles going on at preseason camp …
“The only spot that is not up for grabs is Malorie Pardo’s setting position. At every other spot, we have great depth and great athleticism. The athleticism in our gym is at a pretty high level. We play above the net, and we play physically above the net. That was a piece which is what we were missing last year. We had a few that could play above the net, but we couldn’t play physical up there. I think there’s a lot of change in our team. I think a lot of returners thought when they saw the new girls they need to get going and step up their game. It has led to some great competitive practices. It will be interesting to see how it shapes up. If you asked our staff, we would have three different lineups right now.
On Desiree Elliott being the team’s lone senior …
“Yes, I think the pressure on a lone senior is difficult to handle. Learning how and knowing how to manage that – there’s no book for that. There’s no way Desiree (Elliott) can know how to handle that. She will set the example of how to respond to situations in matches and practices so we will learn on our feet a little. Desiree has been a great teammate and great player for four years. I expect nothing less from her. I am a proponent that teams are driven by their junior class. If you look across the country, in volleyball specifically, those are the teams that are most successful. Those kids are still focused, and they haven’t moved on to their senior year and decided that volleyball might not be as important to them. Some are really driven to go on to professional careers as Desi is. As long as they have goals then they will do a great job.”
On developing chemistry while in Europe…
“I can tell you that we got into some situations and got to experience things together that very few teams get to do. We did a ropes course on top of a mountain in Slovenia. Malorie Pardo was the first one up the telephone pole. To stand on the top of it with the wind blowing about 25 or 30 miles per hour, of course she was harnessed in and we were all holding her. But the trust factor I think that part developed very well. The course of the season is how the new players meld with the players that experienced that trip. That’s the challenge for the coaching staff. The experience we had on that trip, you can’t replace it. I can’t tell you how many pictures to Miriam (Segar) saying thank you because this has made this group.”
On the development of Cati Leak and Khourtni Fears from their freshmen seasons …
“Cati has matured into a great outside hitter. She played right side last year because that’s where we needed her to play. She’s not really a right side hitter, but she adapted and filled a very big role. She has developed her passing game, developed her defensive game and has developed into a true go-to outside hitter. She will play on the pin this year, and she is going to be the terminating force. Her biggest maturation has been learning to manage the game as an outside hitter and seizing opportunities rather than erring us out. I think that was the difficult part for her last year. Khourtni continues to improve, and I’m very impressed with how she’s come in. Truly, the last match that we played in Italy on our tour, Khourtni took the step to figure out how to really play the game. Unfortunately, she was sick for part of the tour so she kind of missed out on some of the things. She still played through, and she toughed it out. Our competition to get on the court in the middle is tough. We have four people that could start so it’s really fun.”
On sand volleyball program…
“We’re super excited to start sand volleyball, and I’m super excited to be apart of that process. We will field a sand team in the spring of 2014 as an LSU varsity sport. Open tryouts will be held for any enrolled LSU student on September 15 at Mangos which is located off of Sherwood Forest Boulevard. Information is available on LSUsports.net, and there is now a pull down for sand volleyball. We will play mostly with our current indoor team. However, we will add based on those that try out and make the team. We will train them a bit in the fall. I’m going to split training the indoor and outdoor team with my primary focus being the indoor team. We’ll add everyone in January together. Meghan Mannari is the first LSU athlete to sign a scholarship for sand volleyball. She will return for her fifth year of eligibility as a graduate student to play on the first sand volleyball team. Meghan looks to go onto a professional career in sand. It’s a great way for us to kickoff our sand program with her leading the charge.”
The differences between indoor and sand volleyball…
“Sand is a two-on-two game with the court almost as big and net the same height. It’s typically more of a finesse game then physical. Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh can certainly play a physical game, but they are the elite of the elite. If you watch the Olympics, there are a lot of roll shots, tips, throws and great defensive plays on the women’s side … It’s not foreign to us; we have been playing in the sand during our offseason for about five years. This is something I’m very excited and passionate about. I think it’s a great thing for women’s athletics when you are able to create more opportunities. It’s a completely different game than the indoor game.”
On Katarina Raicevic …
“She has been amazing. If you watch her on the court, her style of play is a little bit different but her communication skills are amazing. When Marina Skender came to our program, we had much more difficulty integrating her into our system and having her develop in style of play than we’ve had with Katarina. She has come along a whole lot faster than I thought. I expected it would take her about six weeks to figure out our system and really get going. She’s pretty close now, and we are pretty excited about what she can add.”
MIDDLE BLOCKER DESIREE ELLIOTT
On if there’s pressure being the team’s lone senior…
“There is pressure, but I don’t back down from it. It’s a challenge to make sure I adapt to every one of my teammates on and off the court. Our team has done so well in dispersing the leadership roles and responsibility that I don’t feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I want to leave this team with a legacy. I don’t want a repeat of last year. There’s no doubt that we need to make it to the NCAA Tournament and win the SEC West. I want those to be our team goals and the legacy that I leave for this program.
On her “Geaux Kids” philanthropy project …
“I have chosen to partner with St. Vincent De Paul. It’s a shelter for homeless women and children. My mom grew up in this area, and she knows what it feels like to come from a less privileged family. I just want to give back to the community, and I want our team to know how blessed we are. Every day we get to go home and have food and clothes. Some of the children who come to our own matches don’t have those privileges. I just wanted our team and the community to know about and help these families out.”
SETTER MALORIE PARDO
On her excitement for the season …
“I’m very excited. So far, this team has been so much fun to play with. It’s only been a week, and I can already tell the atmosphere on our team is different from previous years. There’s a different vibe in the gym, and it’s been very fun to work off of that as a setter.”
On the team’s offseason …
“As a whole, we go through a hard conditioning program each spring. I’ve been through it for two years, and I can tell I’m more prepared for this season than any other since I’ve been in Baton Rouge. Our freshmen are now getting prepared with us and are a great fit into our system for the upcoming season.”
OUTSIDE HITTER KATIE LINDELOW
On having a fresh start for the 2013 season…
“It really feels like it. We know we didn’t live up to our own expectations or the expectations of others last year. I want to help get this program get back to where it once was, and I feel we kind of got away from that last year. We are ready to bring it back though.”
On Briana Holman’s impact…
“Briana has made an impact on the court since open gym this summer. She came in and our jaws dropped from the first ball she hit. She is a lot of fun to play with and against and will be one of those players that make us better on both sides of the net. She works hard and really wants to win. That’s the kind of attitude we need for our team to be successful.”