LSU's Haley Smith, coach Fran Flory and Malorie Pardo
Photo by:Hilary Scheinuk, LSU Athletics Student Photographer
Volleyball Drops Tight, Four-Set Affair to Missouri
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Published: September 23, 2012, 05:17 PM (CT)
by Matt Dunaway, Associate SID

BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team fell in four sets to Missouri [20-25, 23-25, 25-21, 22-25] as the two programs opened its SEC rivalry Sunday at the Maravich Center.

LSU (5-8, 1-3 SEC) held a 65-60 and 98-87 advantages in kills and digs, respectively. However, Missouri (11-3, 3-1 SEC) was able to muster a .245 to .223 hitting percentage edge and a 10-7 blocking advantage. Missouri also committed only 15 attacking errors, while forcing LSU into 24 hitting mistakes. 

"I thought Missouri made the plays when they had to, and I thought we battled awfully hard," head coach Fran Flory said. "We got into a lot of extended rallies. The hard part for us is Missouri made us earn our points. They didn't give us much. They had 15 hitting errors in four sets. That is pretty efficient offensive effort and really made the difference in the match. Volleyball is a game of errors, and we made more errors than they did. At the end of a match where you battle somebody this close, the team that makes the fewest errors is the team that is going to win."

Malorie Pardo distributed a match-high 57 assists and corralled 15 digs to claim her third straight double-double for LSU. She sparked a trio of hitters to at least 15 kills.

Desiree Elliott equaled a season's best with 19 kills on a .343 hitting clip and totaled five digs. Helen Boyle and Madie Jones provided 15 kills apiece, while Boyle came away with a season-high 17 digs to pick up her second consecutive double dip.

Khourtni Fears matched a career-best with eight kills and notched three blocks. Cati Leak chipped in a career-high 16 digs to go along with four kills and two blocks.

On the back row, Sam Delahoussaye sprawled out for 22 digs filling in for Meghan Mannari in her fourth straight match at libero. Haley Smith equaled a career-high with 18 scoops. The Delahoussaye-Smith duo was a perfect 27-for-27 in reception attempts.

Missouri's Whitney Little powered home 15 kills on 34 swings without an attack error en route to a .441 hitting ratio. She also secured seven blocks, including four solo stuffs. Taylor Simpson garnered 14 kills, while LSU's defense limited All-SEC Preseason pick Lisa Henning to 12 kills on a .153 attack percentage. Henning came away with 13 digs to compile a double-double. 

Henning was joined by Molly Kreklow in the double-double department. She dished out 47 assists and registered 14 digs. Missouri's back row was led by Sarah Meister's 27 digs and Jade Hayes' 15 scoops.

"I thought Little was the difference maker in the match," Flory said. "She also had zero hitting errors. When you get somebody to have that type of performance, it really and truly proves that volleyball is a game of who makes the least amount of errors. They had a couple of kids who made defining plays at key times, and we didn't have that. We had people making defining plays, but not at the turn points that you had to have the play made."

The two teams split the first 28 points of the opening set. Missouri pieced together three consecutive points capped by back-to-back Simpson kills to go ahead 17-14. LSU pushed back to within a point on two separate occasions, the latest at 19-18. Henning and Little responded with consecutive kills followed by a Kreklow-Little stuff on Jones to lift Missouri to a 22-18 advantage. Missouri finished off the 25-20 victory on a Boyle hitting error. For the frame, Missouri connected for a match-best .342 hitting percentage and converted on 15-of-20 sideout attempts.

"We need to work on coming out strong," Elliott said. "We were dead on the court in the first set and didn't really have any leadership. That is what made that game so hard, no one really stepped us when we needed to. We didn't have any fire or fight. That is what made it really hard for us to get our flow going and our pace going."

Missouri raced out to a 14-9 lead to start set two as Little pounded five quick kills. LSU charged back with seven of the next nine points to deadlock the tally at 16-16. Elliott ripped three kills, while Boyle added two spikes and a block to spark the comeback. Even at 18-18, Madi Mahaffey knocked a kill and tacked on a solo block off the bench to give LSU a 20-18 lead. LSU carried its two-point spread at 23-21 until Missouri used a strong finishing kick with four straight points to turn the tables for the 25-23 win.

Out of the locker room, Missouri built a 10-6 edge to start the third set aided by three straight LSU hitting miscues. Once again, LSU battled back and garnered 10 of the next 16 points to square the stanza at 16-16. Pardo set five different players to kills during the run and teamed with Fears for a block on Simpson for the equalizer. Fears took over with three kills and a block to push LSU out to a 21-18 lead. Boyle tacked on a pair of sideout kills to vault LSU to a 25-21 victory.
 
The fourth set featured a match-high 12 ties to go along with five lead changes. Tied at 18-18, Missouri notched three quick points capped by a Little solo block on Fears to go ahead by a 21-18 margin. Like Friday's match with Kentucky, LSU was poised to force a deciding fifth set. LSU cut the deficit down to a point on two separate times. An Elliott kills made the score 23-22 and forced Missouri into its final timeout. Simpson provided a sideout spike followed by an Elliott attack error to enable Missouri to escape with the 25-22 triumph.

"I am proud of our effort," Flory said. "Certainly, we played very hard. We rallied back. I was very proud we came back to win the third set and had a chance in the fourth. Honestly, we should have taken care of the second set. It should have been a 1-1 tie going into the locker room. When you're up 23-21, we should finish it. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that."

LSU returns to the road for a pair of SEC Western Division match-ups. The Tigers meet Mississippi State [Friday - 7 p.m.] before traveling to Arkansas [Sunday - 1 p.m.]. Both matches will have free live audio available in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net/live.

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 is free compliments of the Advocate's "Geaux Free" program.

Volleyball Postmatch Quotes
LSU vs. Missouri - September 23, 2012

Head Coach Fran Flory

On the difference in the match ...
"I thought Missouri made the plays when they had to, and I thought we battled awfully hard. We got into a lot of extended rallies. The hard part for us is Missouri made us earn our points. They didn't give us much. They had 15 hitting errors in four sets. That is pretty efficient offensive effort and really made the difference in the match. Volleyball is a game of errors, and we made more errors than they did. At the end of a match where you battle somebody this close, the team that makes the fewest errors is the team that is going to win."

On the middle blockers ...
"Our game plan was that we were going to force the middles. It certainly proved to be very efficient and very effective for us when we handled the first contact. Even in transition when we dug accurately and gave Malorie a chance to feed out middles, we were very efficient. Our game plan was going to work, we just got a little over anxious in longer rallies and tried to do a little too much.  I think Missouri played a much more patient, much more composed game than we did. That is the bottom line."

On Missouri's Whitney Little ...
"I thought she was the difference maker in the match. She also had zero hitting errors. When you get somebody to have that type of performance, it really and truly proves that volleyball is a game of who makes the least amount of errors. They had a couple of kids who made defining plays at key times, and we didn't have that. We had people making defining plays, but not at the turn points that you had to have the play made. I am proud of our effort. Certainly, we played very hard. We rallied back. I was very proud we came back to win the third set and had a chance in the fourth. Honestly, we should have taken care of the second set. It should have been a 1-1 tie going into the locker room. When you're up 23-21, we should finish it. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that."

On playing without Meghan Mannari ...
"I think that is the key. If we have Meghan, we are probably 4-0 in the league right now. That is the hard part for all of us, including the staff to swallow. Sam Delahoussaye is doing a tremendous job. Haley Smith is doing a great job stepping in and making plays. However, the composure and the poise in the level of maturity Meghan brings to the court and the confidence our team plays with when she is on the court is completely different. Meghan is getting close to being ready to play, but it is my decision. I am not going to put Meghan out there until she is ready. We are not going to push this thing. This is a long season. We need to make sure she is healthy and truly ready to get out there."

On returning to the road Friday at Mississippi State ...
"There are no easy matches in the SEC and certainly on the road they don't become any easier. We are thankful to have had the chance to play at home. We will get a little extra rest tonight because we are at home. This team took another step this weekend. Friday night was a nice step for us. Today was not a win, but it was a good step. It was a great lesson to learn and a great battle. Certainly, we will become better because we played these matches early in the SEC schedule."

Middle Blocker Desiree Elliott

On what the team needs to improve on ...
"We need to work on coming out strong. We were dead on the court in the first set and didn't really have any leadership. That is what made that game so hard, no one really stepped us when we needed to. We didn't have any fire or fight. That is what made it really hard for us to get our flow going and our pace going."

On Missouri ...
"They are a great team. Their setter did a good job of putting the ball opposite where we thought it was going to go. We had a game plan against number five [Lisa Henning] and number eight [Whitney Little]. They made the plays late in sets when they needed to make them."

On her performance ...
"As a middle, we need a good pass and a good set. My performance is based directly on how the rest of the team performs, and they performed really well. If the team is doing well, that fires me up. They get a good pass, Malorie gets a good set and I put it away. My success is all because of them, not me."

On Friday's match at Mississippi State ...
"By now, we should be use to playing on the road. Mississippi State is always a good team and always gives their best effort against us. It is nothing new. We are just going to get a good game plan together and fight."

 

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