CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The LSU volleyball team dominated in all facets of the game en route to a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan [22-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-15] Saturday to conclude the Carolina Classic at Carmichael Arena on the University of the North Carolina campus.
LSU (4-5) picked up back-to-back wins for the first time on the young 2012 season. The Tigers ripped a season's best .311 hitting percentage, connected for a season-high 10 aces, executed at a 71 percent sideout efficiency, held a 68-52 dig advantage and outblocked Western Michigan by an 11-3 margin.
"It's an amazing performance in a lot of facets of the game," head coach Fran Flory said. "I thought Malorie was able to settle in and set a nice offensive tempo. That allowed our hitters to hit all of their shots and hit the ball with authority. We've been waiting for this type of performance. Thanks goodness we got it before we start SEC play next week. I said earlier today that 'the best was yet to come for this group' and hopefully it was going to be tonight. It was tonight, and we look to build on it going forward."
Malorie Pardo handed out a season-best 53 assists to go along with seven digs, three blocks and two blocks. She fueled a quartet of hitters to their best outputs of the season.
Desiree Elliott buried 19 kills on a .389 hitting clip and added four blocks. Madie Jones ripped 13 kills on a .345 hitting ratio and tacked on three blocks. The Tigers improved to 3-0 when Elliott and Jones knock 10 or more kills during the same match.
Helen Boyle fell just shy of a double-double. She worked her way to nine kills, 12 digs and two aces. Khourtni Fears equaled a career-best eight kills on a blistering career-high .636 attack percentage. She also matched a career-best six blocks. Cati Leak notched eight kills, nine digs and two blocks.
"That's an outstanding effort from Khourtni, and we've worked really hard with her," Flory said. "We've told her she has to go hard, go physical and that she can play above these teams. Malorie hasn't been comfortable getting her the ball at times. I call the offense, and I made the decision to force the ball to Khourtni in certain situations. There are not a lot of players who get as high as Khourtni can."
On the back row, Meghan Mannari reeled in 16 digs and pounded four aces. It marked the eighth straight match that Mannari has reached the double figure scoops plateau. Sam Delahoussaye registered a season's best 13 digs, while Haley Smith garnered four digs.
Western Michigan (5-4) was led by Carlee Berland's 14 kills, Terrin Norris' 41 assists and Lena Oliver's 16 digs. Ali Gossen chipped in nine kills and 11 digs for the Broncos.
"The way we played during Friday's loss to North Carolina was unacceptable," Elliott said. "They are a good team. We came in with the mindset today expecting to work hard. After starting slow, we knew we needed to play with more intensity and more fire. The game comes a lot easier to us when we listen and execute what the coaching staff tells us. Everybody played a huge role and did their job. Those are my favorite types of wins."
Trailing 16-14 in set one, LSU collected six consecutive points to turn the tables and snatch a 20-16 advantage. Boyle and Elliott powered home two kills, while Mannari smacked a pair of aces. Western Michigan answered with nine of the final 11 points of the stanza to claim a 25-22 decision. Gossen paved the way for the Broncos with three kills during the run.
"There's no question the fight that we showed in this match from an offensive standpoint," Flory said. "We fought very hard defensively throughout our entire non-conference schedule. I have to give a ton of credit to our assistant coach Jill Lytle Wilson who really challenged this team after we lost that first set when we probably should have taken care of business. The response this team had to her was amazing. Without that, I don't know if we do bounce back. The challenge was there, and the players did an excellent job of answering the challenge."
LSU bounced back in a big way and fired out to an 8-2 edge to open up the second set. Jones and Boyle sparked the run with two kills and two aces, respectively. Western Michigan trimmed the LSU lead down to 12-9, but the Tigers racked up seven consecutive points to regain the momentum. Boyle and Elliott teamed for five quick kills. LSU never looked back and finished off the 25-15 triumph with a Fears kill.
The pivotal set three started with the two teams splitting the first 34 points. Neither team grabbed more than a two-point spread. LSU finished the frame in style with eight straight points to grab the 25-17 win. After a Western Michigan service error ignited the spurt, LSU's defense forced the Broncos into a trio of hitting miscues coupled with two Elliott kills and a Mannari ace.
LSU clicked on all cylinders during the fourth set. The Tigers banged home 15 kills on a match-best .481 hitting percentage and converted on 15-of-16 sideout attempts. LSU led wire-to-wire as Elliott and Leak combined for nine of the 15 kills. Ahead 8-7, the Tigers pieced together seven of the next nine points to push their advantage to 15-9. LSU capped the run with consecutive blocks involving Fears. Western Michigan would get as close as 15-11 before the Tigers ripped off five straight points and ran away with the 25-15 decision.
LSU moves into SEC action Friday at Alabama. First serve is on-tap for 7 p.m. from Foster Auditorium with live audio and live stats available for free inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net.
"Our players are excited to start SEC play," Flory said. "Everywhere we play is a battle, and road wins are hard to come by in this conference. Getting road wins are what determine SEC Western Division titles and SEC championships. We want to get off on the right track Friday at Alabama, and we know we'll get their best shot."
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.
Admission to all 2012 home matches at the Maravich Center are free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program.
2012 Carolina Classic All-Tournament Team
Ashley Adams, Middle Tenn. St.
Terin Norris, Western Michigan
Desiree Elliott, LSU
Sam Delahoussaye, LSU
Chaniel Nelson, UNC
Kayla Berringer, UNC
Emily McGee, UNC - Tournament MVP