BATON ROUGE - The LSU volleyball team honored the championship legacy left behind by Sam Delahoussaye, Victoria Jacobsen, Madie Jones and Meghan Mannari during the program's Senior Night and 2012 season finale Wednesday at the Maravich Center.
LSU dropped a four-set decision to Arkansas (22-25, 13-25, 25-23, 25-12). The Tigers (12-17, 8-12 SEC) were handed their fourth straight loss, while the Razorbacks (22-8, 13-6 SEC) swept LSU in the season series for the first time since 2003 and improved their NCAA Tournament resume.
"We can't explain enough how much it has meant to us to be able to play under Fran (Flory), Jill (Lytle Wilson) and Sam (Ojie)," libero Meghan Mannari said. "They have been such great coaches for us. The team has become a family that we see every day on the court. It is an amazing feeling to go home when people ask, "you play college volleyball?" Yeah, I play for LSU. It is such an honor to be able to say that. Everyone is impressed by it because they know what the Tiger family is. People who bleed purple and gold understand that."
Madie Jones powered home 11 kills and finished her career tied with former All-American Brittnee Cooper for 15th place on the program's all-time list. The Plano, Texas, native buried 1,110 career kills.
On the back row, Meghan Mannari collected 23 digs and wrapped up her career in ninth position in the LSU dig club. She sprawled out 1,208 career scoops.
Sam Delahoussaye provided seven digs and added a match-leading three aces in her final outing in the Purple & Gold. She has played in all 121 matches over her four years and joined former All-American Marina Skender are the only four-year letterwinners to accomplish the feat of playing in every match of their careers during the 2000's.
Victoria Jacobsen made her season debut and tacked on two assists as LSU's starting setter.
"Those four players have meant to this program, you can't really explain it," head coach Fran Flory said. "Honestly, I thought we tried to be too hard for our seniors. We pushed a little hard instead of allowing ourselves to play and do the things that we know we can do. Again, another positive tribute to our four seniors. I think the bottom line is our young team grew up a little bit. We still some growing up to do. This team will get better, and we'll be back."
Desiree Elliott ripped a team-leading 12 kills and was involved in five of LSU's nine blocks. Malorie Pardo tallied 26 assists and registered 10 digs to claim her team-leading 12th double-double of the season. Off the bench, Madi Mahaffey popped four kills, passed out two assists and garnered a block.
Arkansas received double-doubles from Jasmine Norton (15 kills, 10 digs) and Roslandy Acosta (11 kills, 12 digs). Amanda Anderson cranked 12 kills on a .304 hitting percentage and picked up five blocks. On the back row, Emily Hern reeled in a match-leading 27 digs.
"We played really hard, you can't fault this team," Flory said. "I tell people all the time, I would take this team again. We needed a few things to fall our way. It seemed like every time this year things just never got positive for us. We just kept running into more and more difficulties. As a coach, you know that when you hit the bad spots, you're going to get the positives at some point. What goes around comes around. I'm sorry for the seniors that we couldn't get it to turn around this season, but certainly it will turn around in the future."
Arkansas fired out to a 16-8 lead to start the opening frame behind 10 kills on 16 errorless swings. LSU worked its way back into the stanza and pulled within 23-20 on a Delahoussaye ace. The Tigers wiped away two sets points via an Elliott kill and an Elliott-Maas block to draw back to 24-22. The Razorbacks closed out the 25-22 on a block of their own.
The Arkansas defense forced LSU into a negative hitting percentage in set two. The Razorbacks also converted on 11-of-14 sideouts to win going away by a 25-13 margin. The trio of Anderson, Norton and Janeliss Toress-Lopez notched 10 of the 14 kills for Arkansas.
LSU bounced back during the third set and jumped out to a 13-10 edge on a Leak kill. The two teams traded mini-runs, and the Tigers took a 21-17 advantage after back-to-back Jones spikes. Arkansas pulled back to 21-20, but Jones provided a sideout spike followed by a Delahoussaye ace to vault LSU back in-front by three points, 23-20. The Razorbacks drew back within one at 24-23, but Mahaffey buried a cross-court kill to give the Tigers the 25-23 triumph.
Arkansas regrouped and led wire-to-wire in set four. The Razorbacks forced LSU into 12 hitting errors and clinched the four-set win with a 25-12 decision.
"I think they have a great future ahead of them," Mannari said. "They've grown so much to become such a great team together. We've all done that. I think the last match was playing on emotion, and realizing that we have to play with heart and dedication. That comes from inside of us. We have to play with the passion to represent these people and this school. I think they will do a great job of carrying that on, and leaving that message for years to come."
LSU's seven-year run atop the SEC Western Division came to a close during the 2012 season. The streak was the second-longest in SEC history only behind Florida's 14-year atop the SEC Eastern Division from 1995-2008. The Tigers are scheduled to return 10 letterwinners in 2013.
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