TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Cati Leak powered home 16 kills on a .366 hitting percentage, but the LSU volleyball team was handed a 3-1 setback by Alabama [25-27, 25-20, 20-25, 15-25] Sunday as 1,173 fans gathered at Foster Auditorium.
The Tigers (13-5, 3-3 SEC) have lost back-to-back matches for the second time on the season. The victory for Alabama (16-5, 4-3 SEC) was just its second win over LSU in 14 attempts since 2006.
After splitting the first two sets, Alabama connected for 30 kills and a .358 hitting percentage compared to 20 kills and a .145 hitting ratio for the Tigers. The Crimson Tide also converted at a 75 percent sideout rate versus a 53 percent sideout efficiency for LSU during the third and fourth stanzas.
“Certainly, a disappointing response for our team out of the break,” head coach Fran Flory said. “Our team responded like a young team in that situation. The thought that maybe Alabama was broken a little bit instead the thought of coming out and understanding that Alabama on their home court is a pretty solid team. I said before the match that Alabama is a team that you’re going to have to beat. We didn’t play at a high enough level long enough to beat them.”
Malorie Pardo handed out 41 assists to go along with five digs and five blocks. The five blocks for Pardo equaled a career-high. LSU’s offense tallied 47 kills and a .231 hitting percentage. It marked the Tigers first loss when hitting over .200 on the season.
Leak’s 16 kills and .366 hitting ratio were season-bests for the sophomore outside hitter in a SEC match. Katie Lindelow tacked 11 kills and 17 digs en route to her second consecutive double-double, while Madi Mahaffey came away with seven kills which matched her third-highest output of the season.
LSU’s middles of Desiree Elliott and Briana Holman struggled to find their rhythm. Elliott knocked home eight kills and three blocks whereas Holman was held to four kills on a season-low .063 hitting clip. Holman was involved in six of LSU’s 10 blocks for the match.
On the back row, Haley Smith returned to double figure digs and stretched out for 17 scoops. She has corralled 10-plus digs in 13 of her 14 starts at the libero position.
Alabama was fueled by Brittany Thomas (18 kills), Krystal Rivers (16 kills) and Mattie Weldy (15 kills). Weldy secured a match-best .522 hitting percentage on her 23 swings. Kryssi Daniels picked up a match-leading 20 digs for the Crimson Tide.
“That’s more of the type of performance that we expect out of Cati and Katie,” Flory said. “Those two did their jobs and played at a better level. Unfortunately, the rest of the team wasn’t able to totally do their jobs. You have to credit Alabama, but I thought that we were in situations to control things. Either, we didn’t have the right mentality or maintain the right mentality.”
Alabama jumped out to a 15-11 advantage to start the first set, but LSU rallied seven of the next nine points to turn the tables and grab a 18-17 lead. The run featured two blocks involving Elliott. Leak hammered home consecutive kills to give LSU a 22-20 edge. However, Alabama pieced together a 6-2 flurry down the stretch to take the 27-25 win. Thomas and Weldy struck for two kills apiece to spark the run.
LSU established its block during the early moments of set two with four stuffs all involving Holman to fire out to a 7-3 lead. The Tigers made it 13-7 after a Leak kill before Alabama pulled within two points on two separate occasions, the latest at 15-13. Lindelow notched two kills, Elliott popped two kills and Mahaffey added a kill and a block to push LSU back ahead by a 22-16 margin. The Tigers closed out the 25-20 victory on a Leak sideout spike.
Alabama used runs during the middle of the third and fourth sets to close out the four-set win. The trio of Rivers, Thomas and Weldy combined for 25 of the Tide’s 30 kills during the 25-19 and 25-15 triumphs, respectively.
“Our serving wasn’t very aggressive and wasn’t very accurate,” Flory said. “That’s the one skill that you can really control. It was a goal of ours from beginning of the season to be an efficient and effective serving team. We have to get into the gym and fix that portion of our game. The good news is that all of the things that are happening to us are fixable. We need to redefine ourselves and recreate our identity again. I think we’re a very good team, we just have to get all the pieces back together.”
LSU returns home to face its second ranked opponent of the 2013 season as the undefeated and No. 18 Missouri Tigers visit the Maravich Center on Friday. First serve is slated for 7 p.m. with live video and live stats available for Geaux Zone subscribers at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Admission to all 2013 home matches is free compliments of the Advocate's “Geaux Free” program. The Missouri match marks the third of six “Attend & Win” matches where one fan will take home a marquee prize. To be eligible for the “Attend & Win” prizes, fans must stay through the entire match.
The “Friday Night Meal Deal” returns as LSU concessions will provide a special menu for only $7 per meal beginning at 6 p.m. inside the Courtside Club located at the Northwest entrance. To reserve a “Meal Deal” in advance, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the quantity of meals and names. The Missouri match menu consists of Chicken Florentine with angel hair pasta and vegetable medley.
Desiree Elliott will continue LSU’s legacy of serving the community. She is teaming up with St. Vincent de Paul and Bishop Ott Shelter Program for her season-long senior class philanthropy project. The Tigers will be collecting items ranging from children’s clothes and shoes along with baby supplies and toys at every home match as part of the “Geaux Kids” initiative. Fans will be able to donate items inside the “Geaux Kids” boxes located at the Tiger Fan Zone.
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.