Volleyball Preview Part 4: Middle Blockers
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 – LSU will be deep at the middle blocker position and return both starters from a season ago in senior Desiree Elliott and sophomore Khournti Fears. The Tigers also will have junior Madi Mahaffey and freshmen Briana Holman in the mix.
Elliott has continued to establish herself as a force on both sides of the net and notched a pair of All-SEC picks over her career. She posted 3.40 kills per set, second on the team and second among SEC middles. The 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year enters her senior campaign six kills away from reaching 1,000 and led the team in blocks for the second straight season.
“Desi brings a lot of experience and wisdom to our middle blocker group,” Flory said. “One of her biggest strengths is her competitive fire. There’s no doubt that she is one of the focus points that our opponents try to take away every match. When we are able to use Desi’s quickness and explosiveness in our system, that’s when we are playing our most effective and up-tempo brand of volleyball.”
Fears made an instant impact on LSU’s front row during her 24 starts last season. She chipped in 1.28 kills and 1.03 blocks per set. The 1.03 blocks per set were ninth in the SEC, second among freshmen.
“Khournti has learned a great deal in her time with our program,” Flory said. “We’ve pushed a lot of buttons with her, and I think we have found the ones that are going to work. She is such a gifted and talented athlete. I think the sky is the limit for her. She is ready to take that next step and have a significant impact on our team.”
Mahaffey saw an expanded role as a sophomore with 15 of her 18 appearances coming during SEC action. She tallied 0.67 kills and 0.52 blocks per set as a key member off the bench.
Holman picked up multiple District 7-5A honors highlighted by the 2012 District 7-A MVP award as a standout at Cedar Hill High School in Texas. She ranked among PrepVolleyball.com’s Class of 2013 Top 50 recruits and was listed among Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50.
“Madi has done everything we’ve asked her to do, and she continues to mature as a leader on our team,” Flory said. “Her knowledge base and understanding of the game has grown by a significant level over the last year. Briana is a physical high-flier that brings power, speed and explosiveness to our team that directly fits into our system. Her ability to play above the net will afford her the chance to be a special player.”
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.