No. 21 Volleyball Travels to Iowa Challenge

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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No. 21 Volleyball Travels to Iowa Challenge

DES MOINES, Iowa — The 21st-ranked LSU volleyball team will take its undefeated record to Iowa this weekend as the Tigers participate in the Iowa Challenge hosted by Drake University.

LSU will face Iowa State on Friday at 5 p.m. before closing out the tournament on Saturday against Drake at 10 a.m. and Iowa at 5:30 p.m. Last weekend, LSU went 3-0 to claim the Mizuno Invitational II championship. The Tigers defeated Illinois in five games, before posting a sweep of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and a four-game win over Rice.

“We’re 6-0 this season and excited to be there,” said LSU head coach Fran Flory. “We’re still a work in progress and we’re not there yet. We go to Drake this weekend where we play Iowa State, who is an up-and-comer in the Big 12, and Iowa, who is a solid team in the Big 10. We’re excited about our team and excited to go to Des Moines to see how we do against a little higher competition.”

LSU sophomore Lauren DeGirolamo was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, while junior Kyna Washington and sophomore Brittnee Cooper were named to the all-tournament team. Junior libero Elena Martinez also went on to earn Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors.

DeGirolamo tied for the fourth most total blocks in a four-game match with 12 and the sixth most block assists with nine. In back-to-back matches, DeGirolamo tied her career high with 17 kills against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Rice. Against the Islanders, she also hit a team-best .531 with seven blocks and six digs. With her 12 blocks and 17 kills against the Owls, it marked her fourth career double-double.

“Before the season I said that Lauren DeGirolamo would have an All-America-type season and she is doing that,” said Flory. “She is putting incredible numbers, some of the best in the history of LSU volleyball.”

Washington had 15 kills against Rice after posting 11 in the match against Corpus Christi, while hitting .360 with four digs and four service aces against the Islanders. Against Illinois, she led the match with 18 kills, while also posting 10 digs for her first double-double of the season. Cooper posted 11 kills and seven blocks against the Owls after recording 11 kills and eight blocks against the Fighting Illini.

Brittnee Cooper has arrived,” said Flory. “She is definitely a force. Kyna Washington is our go-to there is no doubt about it. She is a great athlete and a great player and is going to make things happen for us.”

In the weekend finale against Rice, Martinez recorded 30 digs in the four-game win, which tied for the second-most digs in any match in LSU history. It also marked the second most digs in a four-game match by a Tiger. In the weekend opening win against Illinois, she posted 20 digs in the five-game match, before posting 19 in a three-game win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Iowa State enters the tournament with a record of 3-4. The Cyclones dropped two straight to open the year before winning three of their last five contests. Erin Boeve leads the Cyclones with 3.89 kills per game, followed by Lauren Cummings with 3.19 kills per game. Jen Malcolm leads ISU with 1.81 blocks per game, while Laura Cady leads the Cyclones with 3.70 digs per game.

Drake enters the Iowa Challenge with a record of 2-2. The Bulldogs opened the year with a loss to UMKC, before going 2-1 in the Hampton Inn Invitational last weekend. Emily Madden leads the Bulldogs with 3.31 kills per game, while Mikayla Sims is second on the team with 3.12 kills per game and leads the team with a .316 hitting percentage. Samantha Nelson is the only Drake player with over a block a game, coming in with 1.06, and Alana Wittenburg leading the Bulldogs with 3.94 digs per game.

Iowa enters the weekend with a record of 4-1. The Hawkeyes rebounded from a season-opening five-game loss to nationally ranked BYU to win their last four contests. Catherine Smale leads the Hawkeyes with 2.80 kills per game, one of five Iowa players averaging over two kills per game. The Hawkeyes have two players with over a block per game, led by Laura Kremer with 1.55 and Becky Walters with 1.20.

This weekend will mark the second meeting for LSU and all three opponents. The Tigers won the only previous meeting with Iowa State, 3-0, in 1987. LSU also won its only other meeting with Iowa, 3-2, in 1984. Drake is the only opponent this weekend that has a win over the Tigers, knocking off LSU, 3-0, in 1996.

The Tigers open SEC play on the road next weekend as LSU takes on Ole Miss, which is receiving votes in the poll, in Oxford on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The Tigers then travel to perennial power Arkansas, which is also receiving votes in the poll, for a match on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. LSU’s next home match is Sept. 21 against South Carolina in the Maravich Center at 7 p.m.

“We open SEC play next week and we really need to be prepared,” said Flory. “We open up at Ole Miss and that is a really tough place to play. They are playing really well. They have knocked off some teams that are receiving votes and they are actually getting votes in the poll. I’ll be a tough way to open the conference season.”