Volleyball Gears Up for Arkansas in Finale
BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team has already secured a share of its seventh consecutive SEC Western Division crown and finishes off the 2011 regular season Saturday versus Arkansas. First serve is slated for 1:30 p.m. at the Maravich Center.
Admission is free courtesy of the Advocate's Geaux Free program. Fans have one more opportunity to donate elementary level books to benefit the Everybody Reads Program through Volunteer in Public Schools.
Both LSU (18-11, 11-8 SEC) and Arkansas (18-12, 10-9 SEC) are looking to erase losing streaks and cap the regular season on a strong victory. With a victory, the Tigers can claim the SEC West outright. If Arkansas wins, the Razorbacks will earn a share of the SEC West for the first time since 2005.
"We are excited to be playing for something at the end of the year," head coach Fran Flory said. "Certainly our team takes great pride in the fact that we have been able to continue our championship tradition with such a young group. Our seniors want to go out on a winning note, but we know Arkansas is a very difficult opponent that will be very prepared. This should be a tremendous match."
Behind a strong defensive effort, Arkansas swept LSU earlier this season in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks held the Tigers to a .077 hitting percentage, while Jasmine Norton powered home a team-best 12 kills. Norton enters Saturday's contest with 3.62 kills per set, fifth-highest in the SEC. She is joined by Kelli Stipanovich, who has chipped in 3.23 kills per set to rank ninth in the conference.
"Arkansas has two of the best pin hitters in the league in Norton and Stipanovich," Flory said. "We need to be extremely prepared for them. I didn't think we handled our side of the net very well at Arkansas. I thought we got flustered and tried to play a pace that was not really out pace. The focus has been to take care of our side, but prepare for them because they run a nice, very explosive offense. We are going to have to limit their runs and control our side of the net very well to be successful."
LSU's offense is fueled by Desiree Elliott, Madie Jones and Michele Williams. All three players have averaged over 3.00 kills per set with Elliott and Jones ranking among the SEC's Top 10. Jones is sixth with 3.54 kills per set, while Elliott is seventh with 3.44 kills per set. Elliott and Williams also have been strong on the defensive end with 97 and 94 blocks, respectively.
Malorie Pardo has distributed 11.67 assists per set to rank second on the SEC leaderboard and entered the week 12th nationally. She has eclipsed 40 helpers during nine of her last 13 outings.
Helen Boyle has smacked double figure kills in four of her last six outings and reeled in 2.95 digs per set to rank second on the team.
On the back row, Meghan Mannari is the fourth player in program history to secure over 500 digs for a season. She is 10 scoops away from Luciana Reis (1993) and Elena Martinez (2008) for the third-highest total. The Frisco, Texas, native has compiled 4.68 digs per set, second-best in the SEC.
Lauren Waclawczyk along with Williams will play in their last regular season match. For her career, Waclawczyk has amassed 1,247 digs and heads into the Arkansas match 15 scoops away from Wendy Stammer for the No. 7 spot on LSU's all-time list.
"We have made an adjustment to our defense to get her (Mannari) more touches and involved in more plays," Flory said. "Our goal is to try and create a few more opportunities and get her a few more positive touches. I look for Lauren and Michele to have a great finish putting the purple and gold on for the last time in our facility. They have meant so much to our program."
Live video and live stats for Saturday's match are offered inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net, while in-match updates also are available via the program's social media outlets at LSU Volleyball on Facebook or http://twitter.com/lsuvolleyball.