BATON ROUGE – The LSU volleyball team will begin its 2013 season by playing host to the 2013 Tiger Classic over the weekend at the Maravich Center.
The Tigers will take on Texas-San Antonio [Friday – 7 p.m.], UC Davis [Saturday – 10 a.m.] and 2012 NCAA participant San Diego State [Saturday – 7:30 p.m.]. Admission to all 2013 home matches are free compliments of the Advocate's “Geaux Free” program, and all three LSU matches will have live video inside the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live.
LSU has turned in a 34-14 record during its first tournament weekend under the direction of head coach Fran Flory, who enters her 16th season. The Tigers have posted a winning record in 12 of their last 13 opening weekends since 2000.
“These three teams are three quality programs,” Flory said. “UTSA is coached by one of my former college teammates at Texas [Laura Neugebauer-Groff] so I know their system. She is a great coach, and they’re going to be a tough foe. UC Davis is going to be a scrappy team, a great ball control team and a very solid team who is not going to give us much. San Diego State is a team that’s up and coming. They are a big physical team that’s coached by a former Olympian [Deitrre Collins-Parker]. Certainly, these will be three great opening weekend matches for our team.”
LSU brings back five starters and adds a talented group of five newcomers itching to make an instant impact. The Tigers are hoping to build on a strong spring season and successful 12-day European Tour that saw stops in Croatia, Italy and Slovenia.
Helen Boyle, Desiree Elliott and Malorie Pardo have each garnered All-SEC accolades during their careers. Elliott picked up a 2013 All-SEC Preseason-Team selection and enters the weekend six kills away from becoming the 20th player in program history to reach 1,000 career kills.
Boyle has made 53 starts as a six-rotation player on the perimeter and has averaged a balanced 2.35 kills to go along with 2.83 digs per set over her first two seasons. In SEC play last season, Boyle upped those marks to 3.04 kills and 2.99 digs per set. She missed LSU’s final three matches in 2012 due to injury.
Pardo has earned the starting nod in 53 of 59 matches during her first two seasons. She has distributed 2,285 career assists and heads into her junior campaign ranked seventh on LSU’s all-time list. The Texas native will look to become the first player since former All-American and LSU Hall of Fame inductee Dani Reis (1989-92) to post 1,000 assists in each of her first three seasons.
“We certainly hope that Desi will get those six kills this weekend,” Flory said. “What a great player she has been for us during the last three years and will be for the last year. She is such a quick and dynamic player. I don’t think I’ve coached anybody who is that quick and that dynamic and can go from one side of the court as fast as she does which makes her so difficult to defend. Hopefully this year because we have a little more balance, other options will be a little more open for us.”
“It’s amazing how quickly our five new players have melded into the group that took the international tour,” Flory said. “What great additions and assets they’ve been in every position. Certainly, the lineup combinations we have will give us a lot of versatility and adaptability. When we change lineups and rotations, they don’t miss a beat. I think we have a bunch of kids that are good in our system and good in the rhythm that we play.”
Fears was a force on LSU’s front row in 24 starts last season. She compiled 1.28 kills and 1.03 blocks per set. The 1.03 blocks per set were ninth in the SEC, second among freshmen.
Leak came away with 1.62 kills, 2.41 digs and 0.70 blocks per set mostly as a six-rotation option over her 27 starts whereas Lindelow will look to find her rhythm after she missed LSU’s last 13 matches of 2012 and could see time on the back row if needed.
Smith saw action in 23 matches and stepped in for Meghan Mannari when she missed the first six SEC matches due to injury. She secured SEC Freshmen of the Week after back-to-back career-high 18-dig efforts against Kentucky and Missouri.
“I think the sophomores are the group that benefited most from the international experience,” Flory said, “Just understanding volleyball at a different level, they’ve shown a lot of growth and maturation. I think their commitment to being great has gone beyond any other class as a whole. Certainly, we’ve had individuals in certain classes who have gone above and beyond in the weight room, on the track, and in the court during the summer. But I’m going to tell you this group has been in the gym more than any other group and that core group specifically. They are great people and are great student-athletes that carry the LSU banner loudly, proudly and correctly. The maturation of that group is going to carry us through, I think, to a very successful season.”
As part of Desiree Elliott’s “Geaux Kids” philanthropy project, LSU will be collecting items at every home match ranging from children’s clothes and shoes along with baby supplies and toys to benefit St. Vincent de Paul and the Bishop Ott Shelter Program. Fans will be able to donate items inside the “Geaux Kids” boxes located at the Fan Zone.
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.
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.