ATHENS, Ga. - Cati Leak banged home a career-high 16 kills on a career-best .484 hitting percentage to lift the LSU volleyball team to a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Georgia [28-30, 25-17, 28-26, 25-21] Friday at the Ramsey Center.
For Leak, she tacked on 12 digs and added five blocks to claim her first double-double since the opening weekend of the season.
"What a breakout performance from Cati Leak," head coach Fran Flory said. "Truly, she was the difference maker in the match. We worked hard in practice during the week of finding her a different offensive rhythm and tempo with Malorie Pardo. I'm happy that the extra hard work paid off for both of them during tonight's match. I also thought Malorie did a fantastic job of creating and making the right choices for our offense."
"Since it's the last stretch of the season, we want to do as well as we can and make sure our side of the net is at the best it can be," Leak said. "The back row passers and Malorie gave all of the hitters the right opportunities to be successful. Thanks to them, I had a lot of one-one-one chances tonight."
The Tigers (12-13, 8-8 SEC) extended their season's best winning streak to three matches on the opening leg of a four-match road swing, while Georgia (13-12, 7-8 SEC) was handed its fourth consecutive loss.
A key to the victory was LSU's 19-11 blocking edge. The 19 blocks for the Tigers are a season-high fueled by Marissa Maas' career-best nine stuffs. She also matched a season watermark with five kills.
Malorie Pardo dished out 57 assists and registered 17 digs en route to her SEC-leading 11th double dip during conference action. She sparked a quartet of hitters to double figure kills for the first time on the season.
Madie Jones connected for a team-leading 18 kills and has provided double digit spikes in all 12 of LSU's victories on the season. The 18 spikes for Jones enabled her to eclipse Meagan Davis (1998-2001) for 17th place on the program's all-time kills list. She also totaled six blocks, one away from a career-high.
LSU's back row notched another stellar effort sparked by Meghan Mannari's 28 digs. It marked the sixth time in her last eight outings that the senior libero has surpassed the 20-dig plateau. Sam Delahoussaye also corralled nine scoops as the Tigers garnered a 66 percent sideout efficiency for the match.
Georgia was led by Tirah Le'au, who popped a match-best 19 kills. Kaylee Kehoe [30 assists, 10 digs] and Brittany Northcutt [14 kills, 13 digs] also picked up double-doubles, while Allison Summers collected a match-leading 31 digs for the Bulldogs.
"There wasn't an easy one for Meghan in the 28 digs she was able to get," Flory said. "She was flying all over the court, and Georgia made it very difficult for her. Meghan is such a warrior. The best part of what she does is she doesn't just keep the ball off the floor, she's accurate and creates transition offensive with those digs."
LSU controlled the momentum from the outset of the opening stanza and received a combined 10 kills from the Boyle-Elliott-Jones trio to build a 17-11 advantage. Georgia responded with 11 of the next 13 points ignited by seven straight tallies to go ahead by a 22-19 margin. The Bulldogs used four blocks to spark the run. LSU battled back behind back-to-back Jones kills, a Leak spike and UGA hitting miscue to draw event at 23-23. The Tigers had three set-clinching points erased, and Georgia emerged with the gritty 30-28 triumph on a Northcutt kill.
LSU charged back and led wire-to-wire in set two. The Tigers turned up the defensive pressure and forced Georgia into 11 hitting errors due in large part to seven blocks, three stuffs for Leak and Maas apiece. Up 13-10, LSU seized control via two Jones kills coupled with a Pardo ace and a Leak-Maas block to surge ahead by seven points. The Bulldogs would get no closer than six points, and a Leak solo stuff tucked away the 25-17 win.
The third set mirrored the opening frame and featured 10 ties to go along with four lead changes. Down 22-20, LSU ripped off three consecutive points aided by a pair of Jones kills and a Jones-Maas block on Le'au. The Bulldogs bounced back only to have two set points wiped away due to blocks involving Maas. All square at 26-26, the Tigers received kills from Boyle and Elliott to emerge with the 28-26 victory.
"Marissa was amazing and has been a stabilizing force recently on our front row," Flory said. "She doesn't make mistakes and takes up a lot of space with her length. She may not block every ball but does a great job of channeling the ball to our back row. When she is able to block a lot of ball like she did tonight, that's lagniappe for us."
The two teams split the first 26 points of set four. A long rally which ended with a Mannari dig that landed in the middle of the floor on the UGA side kickstarted a 7-2 run for the Tigers. Boyle and Leak pounded home two kills each to vault LSU to a 20-15 lead. In total, Leak buried six kills on eight flawless swings which included the final blow for the 25-21 win. Pardo directed LSU's offense to a match-high .300 hitting ratio in the frame.
"Absolutely, a great performance by our entire team and a great leadership effort from our seniors," Flory said. "We've been looking for that type of poise and composure all season. We've talked about it a lot, but this was the first time that we were able to have it throughout an entire match. I'm proud of our players for making big plays in critical situations."
LSU continues its four-match road swing with its first trip in program history to Missouri. Sunday's first serve is set for 1:30 p.m. from the Hearnes Center. Live stats and a free live audio webcast is available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live.
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