Volleyball Starts Athletics Season in College Station
BATON ROUGE — The LSU volleyball team will begin the 2002 campaign at the Texas A&M Invitational in College Station, Texas, this weekend against Texas-San Antonio, Alcorn State and No. 17 Texas A&M.
The Tigers will open the season against UTSA on Friday at 1 p.m. before taking on Alcorn State at 8 p.m. With no matches on Saturday, LSU will conclude tournament play against Texas A&M on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Tigers are coming off one of their best seasons in years, compiling a 16-10 overall record and a second place finish in the SEC Western Division in 2001. Despite losing a pair of outstanding players from that team, LSU does return four starters, including All-SEC performers Jennifer Hampton and Lauren Cuyler.
“We lost a lot of experience from last year’s team,” said LSU coach Fran Flory, “But we do have some four-year starters that should be able to come in and do a great job leading us this season.
“That question of leadership is the main issue going into the season, but our senior class certainly has a great foundation to build upon and should be able to step up and lead this team in 2002.”
The Tiger volleyball team has posted a 19-6 record in season openers in the program’s history. Last season LSU defeated Tulane at the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans in the season opener, 3-0. The Tigers have now won five of their last six season openers dating back to 1996.
This will be the first time the Tigers have faced either Texas-San Antonio or Alcorn State in volleyball. This is the 27th meeting between LSU and Texas A&M, dating back to 1981, with the Aggies leading the overall series 16-10. The pair last met in the All-Sport Challenge in 1998 with Texas A&M taking the three-game victory.
A year ago, Hampton led LSU in both kills and digs in 2001, while Cuyler was second on the team in attacking percentage and blocks per game. Senior setter Katie Kubena led the offense to its best hitting percentage in more than a decade and could move into second place in career assists in school history this season. Sophomore Kyra Lancon jumped into the starting lineup as a freshman last season and finished the season third on the team in kills.
A major change to collegiate volleyball in 2002 is the introduction of the libero position. The libero is a designated back-row player intended to be used as a defensive specialist. She may not serve, attempt a block or attack a ball. There are also restrictions on her ability to set the ball to a teammate for an attack.
Wearing a contrasting uniform from her teammates, the libero is allowed to replace any player in the back row without counting as one of the 12 allowed team substitutions. There is no limit to the number of libero replacements a team is allowed
The Tigers will travel to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl Classic next weekend to face in-state rivals Louisiana Tech, UNO and Tulane.