Volleyball Starts SEC Rivalry Friday with Texas A&M

LSU's Desiree Elliott
LSU's Desiree Elliott
Steve Franz
Matt Dunaway
Matt Dunaway

BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team will meet Texas A&M for the first time as SEC rivals when the two teams square off Friday in a key SEC Western Division tilt at the Maravich Center. 

First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m. and fans will have the opportunity to "Geaux Free" to Friday's match compliments of the Advocate. Gates will open to the public one hour prior to first serve.

The Golden Band from Tiger Land will have its Drumline perform in between sets two and three as part of the "Rock the PMAC II" event.

LSU (9-12, 5-7 SEC) has won three of the last four meetings with Texas A&M (15-5, 7-4 SEC) since the 2006 season. However, the Aggies carry a 19-13 all-time series lead.

Texas A&M enters the weekend tied with Arkansas atop the SEC Western Division standings and has won all five of its decisions inside the division. However, the Aggies have been dealt three consecutive losses, including a 3-2 setback last time out to No. 11 Florida.

The A&M offense has averaged an SEC-leading 14.43 kills per set and has been fueled by Alisia Kastmo, who has powered home 3.57 kills per set to rank ninth in the SEC. Tori Mellinger has chipped in 2.93 kills and 3.10 digs per set as a six-rotation option, while Lindsey Miller has cranked 2.50 kills and 1.06 blocks per set from her middle blocker post.

The Aggies have limited the opposition to a SEC-best .163 hitting percentage. Megan Pendergast has produced 3.85 digs per set to led six different players to over a 1.75 scoops per frame average.   

"The players on our two teams have played against each other a lot in high school and club volleyball over the years," head coach Fran Flory said. "There are no secrets on either side of the net. It's going to be an exciting match. Certainly, we have a lot of respect for A&M and their coaching staff. The Corbelli's been there an awfully long time. They are a fun group to coach against, and we've had our battles with A&M over the years." 

LSU has picked up victories in three of its last five outings and moved into sole possession of third place in the SEC Western Division race. The Tigers are coming off a weekend of milestones where Malorie Pardo picked up her 2,000 career assist followed by Sam Delahoussaye's 1,000 career dig and Madie Jones' 1,000 career kill.

"A tribute to those players, and what they have meant to our program," Flory said. "Malorie had a nice weekend. To come back and tough it out on Sunday to play was a nice effort on her part. Having Madie and Sam reach those milestones during the same match of their senior years is special. It's really cool for Sam to reach that mark without ever really playing libero for an extended time whereas Madie just continues to carry a huge load for our offense."

Jones along with Helen Boyle and Desiree Elliott has compiled 77.5 percent of LSU's kills during SEC play. The Tigers are the only team in the SEC to have three players rank inside the SEC's Top 15.

LSU's back row defense has registered an impressive 18.42 digs per set to pace the SEC in league matches. The unit is sparked by Meghan Mannari, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week. She corralled a career-best 40 digs, the second-most in program history for a single match, during last Friday's Auburn match. Her 4.87 digs per set are second in the SEC rankings.
Khourtni Fears and Cati Leak have both started in 20 of 21 matches during their freshman seasons. Fears has racked up a team-leading 78 blocks and her 1.10 stuffs per set check in at fourth place on the SEC leaderboard. Leak has turned in a steady 1.60 kills and 2.54 digs per set playing all six rotations. She has compiled double figure digs in seven of her last 10 outings.

"The resurgence of Khourtni and Cati through October is a great sign for the rest of the season," Flory said. "To see those two regain their confidence and play at high level is nothing but a positive. They are going to do nothing but get better. The hard times are truly behind you once you get past October of your freshman year. We're looking for great things and a great finish from those two. They will be the leaders of our program for the future."

Friday's match will be carried by Cox Sports Television (Cox Cable Channel 1037 in Baton Rouge) with Lyn Rollins and Kent Lowe set to call the action. Live stats also will be available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live.

Friday is the last of four SEC Meal Deal matches. For only $7, LSU concessions will provide a special dinner starting at 6 p.m. inside the Courtside Club which is located at the Northwest Corridor entrance of the arena.

Fans can reserve their meals in advance by emailing kobrien@lsu.edu or by contacting Katie at (225) 578-5050 with the quantity of meals and names. The meals also will be available to walk-up customers on match day, but on a cash-only basis while supplies last.

At every home match, LSU will be collecting pet supplies at the fan zone as part of its "PAWS in the PMAC" campaign to benefit the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society.

Dating back to the 2005 season, LSU has racked up a 168-67 record and is one of 25 programs nationally to secure bids to six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments.

The Tigers have collected seven consecutive SEC Western championships highlighted by the overall league championship in 2009. It's the second longest streak in SEC history, only behind Florida's 14-year run on top of the SEC's Eastern Division from 1995-2008.

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.




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