BATON ROUGE - Madie Jones ripped 12 of her team-high 17 kills during the final two sets to propel the LSU volleyball team to a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Auburn [25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22] Sunday at the Maravich Center.
In the process, LSU (13-6, 6-3 SEC) defeated Auburn (9-11, 3-7 SEC) for the 20th consecutive time in the series dating back to 2001. LSU also has won 51 of its last 54 decisions versus its fellow SEC Western Division rivals since 2006.
The victory allowed LSU to open a 1.5 match lead over Mississippi State in the division race as Jones hammered home a .310 hitting percentage in sets three and four. LSU's middle blocker tandem of Michele Williams and Desiree Elliott combined to blast 29 kills and record seven blocks.
Malorie Pardo notched a match-high 55 assists to go along with 10 digs to secure her team-leading seventh double-double of the season. She also totaled three blocks.
"I thought Madie played with great determination and great finish," head coach Fran Flory said. "We had to have someone do that. I thought at times Nicole carried us through that and did it as well, but in the end it was Madie and her rotations. Certainly, she has done that her entire career so that was not a surprise for us."
LSU's back row garnered an impressive 82-61 digs advantage and forced Auburn to grind out a .208 hitting ratio for the match. Meghan Mannari racked up a match-high 25 digs, her fourth 20-plus scoop performance during SEC action. She also slapped a pair of aces.
Sam Delahoussaye corralled 11 digs for her second straight double figure effort. Lauren Waclawczyk checked in with eight scoops and moved to within three digs of passing Detra Brown (1983-86) for the No. 8 spot on the program's all-time list.
"What a great, fun match to watch if you are a volleyball fan wanting to see long rallies and spectacular digs and terminating plays," Flory said. "Our team, for a Sunday afternoon match after playing a tough match on Friday, certainly our backcourt defense took another step today. They played with another level to make sure we were going to create opportunities. Not only did they keep the ball off the floor, they created great, accurate digs so that Malorie could get under them, and we could run some offense off of them."
For Auburn, Kelly Fidero popped a match-best 18 kills on a .326 hitting percentage. Sarah Bullock cranked 14 kills, but was limited to a .179 hitting clip on her 56 swings. Defensively, Auburn received 16 digs from Sarah Wroblicky.
After splitting the first two frames, Auburn carried its momentum after from a second set victory and grabbed an early 4-1 advantage to start the third stanza. The two teams traded nine ties and seven lead changes. At 18-18, Boyle put LSU ahead for good, and the Tigers used a strong finishing kick with seven on the last 10 points. Pardo capped the 25-21 win in style with an ace. She fueled the home side to a balanced attack with 14 kills, led by five from Jones.
The fourth set proved to be the most dramatic of the match. Another tight frame produced 12 ties and seven lead changes. Auburn took a 19-16 lead after a block on Jones before LSU rallied to prevent the match from going to a deciding fifth set. Jones and Williams ripped three kills apiece to spark a 9-3 spurt and lift LSU to a 25-22 comeback triumph. Boyle brought the match to close on an out-of-system ball from Williams to end a long rally.
"There were definitely a lot of plays at the end where we were all in the middle of the floor, out of breath and making eye contact with each other saying, 'Come on, lets keep fighting for each other,' Jones said. "Overall, it was a really tough and hard fought match. I am really proud of how we fought all the way through to the end and did not let Auburn get on any long runs against us. This is a great accomplishment and gets us another step closer to reaching our goals for the season."
LSU started the match clicking on all cylinders and fired out to an early 8-3 set one lead with the last five points of that stretch coming on Delahoussaye's serve. Elliott belted kills on five of her first six swings as LSU continued its strong play before getting to set point at 24-14. Auburn saved a quartet of set points until a service frame handed LSU a 25-17 victory.
Auburn took the second set 25-23 behind seven Bullock spikes. The visitors jumped out to a quick 4-1 spread, but LSU battled back aided by six straight points on Mannari's serve to turn the tables to 12-8 in LSU's favor. Jones ripped a trio of kills during the run. Auburn charged back and took a 23-22 edge after a Williams serving error. LSU was poised to tie the frame, but a long rally was ended when a Bullock attack was ruled on the line towards the near sideline next to the LSU bench. Boyle and Bullock traded sideouts to allow Auburn to even the match at one set apiece.
"After the first set, Auburn came out a lot stronger," Mannari said. "Maybe at the beginning of the second set, we under estimated them a little. We thought we had it. We talked in the locker room, knew we needed to play our assignment and not worry about who was on the other side of the net. We just each need to do our jobs and take care of the ball."
LSU and Alabama meet Friday for the second time in 2011 as the Tigers continue a four-match homestand versus SEC Western Division opponents. First serve is set for 7 p.m. inside the Maravich Center, and the match will be carried live on KLSU 91.1 FM in the Baton Rouge area.
Live video and live stats also are offered inside the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. In-match updates also are available via the program's social media outlets at http://twitter.com/lsuvolleyball or LSU Volleyball on Facebook.
The Alabama match marks the third of four Friday Night Meal Deals featuring shrimp etouffee served over rice with sides of broccoli and cauliflower are available for $7 starting at 6 p.m. inside the Courtside Club located at the Northwest Corridor entrance of the arena.
Friday's match also is the inaugural "Rock the PMAC" event where LSU's drum line will perform during intermission. The first 500 fans will receive a commemorative drumstick.
For every home match, LSU volleyball will be collecting books as part of its season-long book drive to benefit Everybody Reads Program through Volunteer in Public Schools. Fans are asked to bring new or used elementary level books to help local students.
Volleyball Postmatch Quotes
LSU vs. Auburn - October 16, 2011
HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY
On Madie Jones ...
"I thought Madie (Jones) played with great determination and great finish. We had to have someone do that. I thought at times Nicole (Willis) carried us through that and did it as well, but in the end it was Madie and her rotations. Certainly, she has done that her entire career so that was not a surprise for us."
How they were able to come back from the second set ...
"I think from the start of the match we got on Auburn with our serving. I do not think they were prepared for our serving. I thought we really got on them, and we took them out of what we wanted to do. In set two, they adjusted to our tempo and our rhythm. Sarah Bullock found her rhythm. She is a streaky player. When she is on, she is awfully difficult to stop. After that point we started going after her and making her do more than just swing. I though Jill [Lytle Wilson], our assistant, did a job of creating a situation where Bullock has to play the entire game. When you can do that, you can take her out of her rhythm. It does not happen all of the time, but it took her out of her rhythm enough that we were able to capitalize on those opportunities."
On the back row ...
"What a great, fun match to watch if you are a volleyball fan wanting to see long rallies and spectacular digs and terminating plays. Our team, for a Sunday afternoon match after playing a tough match on Friday, and our backcourt defense certainly took another step today. They played with another level to make sure we were going to create opportunities. Not only did they keep the ball off the floor, they created great, accurate digs so that Malorie (Pardo) could get under them, and we could run some offense off of them."
On playing Alabama next weekend ...
"Alabama is a team that is getting better and better as they progress through the season. We hope we are as well. They are a team that has won some matches and has continued to build. Their best outside player [Kayla Fitterer] has been out for a couple of weeks. I am not sure what her injury is, but I would assume she will be back on the road with them. She will be fresh and that can be dangerous. We are going to have to be very prepared. SEC coaches are great coaches and when they have a chance to get a game plan off of their own tape it will be an interesting battle. It will also be great competition for the second round of conference play."
OUTSIDE HITTER MADIE JONES
On winning the hard fought match ...
"There were definitely a lot of plays at the end where we were all in the middle of the floor, out of breath and making eye contact with each other saying, 'Come on, lets keep fighting for each other.' Overall, it was a really tough and hard fought match. I am really proud of how we fought all the way through to the end and did not let Auburn get on any long runs against us. This is a great accomplishment and gets us another step closer to reaching our goals for the season."
Winning the match in four sets ...
"One thing we really need to work on is winning the second set, [we need to] be able to bounce back after the first and win the second as well. We weren't able to that this weekend. It does take something to fight through, win those tough third and fourth sets and not have to go to five. Everyone knows anything can happen in a fifth set."
On how physical Auburn was ...
"They hit some balls very hard. Our defensive, especially the back row Meghan (Mannari), Helen (Boyle), Sam (Delahoussaye) and Lauren (Waclawczyk) were back there working their tails off and getting us some good swings outside. We were able to match their physicality. We had some great blocks at the beginning of the match, and we were swinging away at the end. I thought we did a good job of matching them point-by-point. They were really physical, but we were able to respond to that."
On playing Alabama next ...
"It is hard to play someone the second time around because we have already beaten them and you think you can take a little off and relax. Really, the second time around in the SEC is when everyone is trying to beat as many teams as they can and are really trying to fight to finish the season strong. We are going to prepare extremely hard this week, and I am happy we are at home. I love playing at home. It is so much fun, and we are in our element here so I am excited about next weekend."
Libero Meghan Mannari
On outlasting Auburn on physicality ...
"A lot of our focus this week in practice was going harder after every ball and defense. We had a lot of that this weekend. The coaches did a great job of preparing us for the long rallies and hard fought plays. All of that was very helpful in both matches this weekend."
On coming back after last weekend's Florida loss ...
"After last weekend, our pride was hurt. I think getting back, focusing on the little details and little things we need to work on like long rallies and digging balls really paid off this weekend.
On Madie Jones' performance ...
"Madie (Jones) did awesome. You know when the ball is going to Madie it is going down. Even coach (Flory) told Madie she was going to finish this match for us. Everyone on the team has the confidence in Madie to do that. When we are in those long rallies in the last set, we want the ball to go to Madie because she is going to put it down on the floor and win us the match."
Difference between the sets ...
"After the first set, Auburn came out a lot stronger. Maybe at the beginning of the second set, we under estimated them a little. We thought we had it. We talked in the locker room, knew we needed to play our assignment and not worry about who was on the other side of the net. We just each need to do our jobs and take care of the ball."