Volleyball Preview Part 3: Defensive Specialists

Matt Dunaway
Matt Dunaway

It’s the nature of head coach Fran Flory and the LSU volleyball program to aim high. The 2013 season will be no different as the Tigers are ready for a new season with new opportunities. LSU brings back five starters and a talented group of newcomers itching to make an instant impact. 

LSU has earned 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. The Tigers also are one of 34 programs to appear in six NCAA Tournaments during the previous eight-year stretch.

As in the past, there are a number of questions leading into the season. The Tigers will look to build on a competitive spring season and an effective European Tour over the summer. LSU will hope to turn that momentum into a successful 2013 campaign.

BATON ROUGE – A key to LSU’s run of success has been the Tigers ability to play excellent defense and pass well. LSU has been rated among the SEC’s top two in digs per set in each of the last three seasons, but the Tigers will have to replace 1,000-dig club members Sam Delahoussaye and Meghan Mannari.

LSU will turn to junior Laura Whalen, sophomore Haley Smith and freshmen Katie Dunlap to firm up the back row in 2013.

Whalen came away with 718 digs over 65 matches and served as Texas State’s primary libero over the last two seasons. She registered double figure digs 34 times, and the Bobcats appeared in the 2011 NCAA Tournament after winning the Southland Conference regular season and tournament titles.

Smith played in 23 matches and was one of six players to collect over 100 digs last season. She played an expanded role when Mannari missed the first six SEC matches due to injury and notched SEC Freshmen of the Week after consecutive career-high 18-dig efforts against Kentucky and Missouri.

Dunlap was a PrepVolleyball.com Top 50 recruit and 2012 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year while at Southlake Carroll High School. Her club team, Texas Advantage Volleyball Club, won a championship in the 18 Open at the 2013 USA Junior Nationals. 

“The back row is one of the spots where we feel we have a lot of depth and potential,” Flory said, “Laura, Haley and Katie embrace our philosophy of the first touch being the most important. Each also are high-energy players who throw their bodies around every time they are on the floor and have the potential to make match-changing plays when we need them to. They go for the ball and go hard. That’s an intangible I’ve always been fond of.” 

LSU will square off with Texas-San Antonio (Aug. 30 – 7 p.m.), UC Davis (Aug. 31 – 10 a.m.) and San Diego State (Aug. 31 – 7:30 p.m.) for the season-opening Tiger Classic at the Maravich Center. Admission is free courtesy of The Advocate’s “Geaux Free” program.

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.





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