No. 22 Volleyball Squares Off with No. 6 Florida

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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No. 22 Volleyball Squares Off with No. 6 Florida

BATON ROUGE — In a showdown of the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference for the last three seasons, the 22nd-ranked LSU volleyball team will face off with No. 6 Florida on Sunday in the Maravich Center at 1 p.m.

The match will be televised by Cox Sports Television in Baton Rouge on cable channel 37 as part of the Gators’ Cox Sports package. The match marks LSU volleyball camp reunion day as all campers wearing their camp T-shirt get into the match for FREE. In addition, the first 200 fans will receive one of the popular “Gold Digger” T-shirts. Canned food donations will be accepted at the entrance of the Maravich Center as part of the SEC’s “Together We CAN” food drive.

The Tigers enter the contest with an 11-1overall record and a perfect 3-0 mark in SEC play. Florida is undefeated at 10-0 on the year and 3-0 in conference action. LSU has won five straight since falling to Iowa State in its only loss of the season. The Gators have won the last 16 regular season conference titles, while the Tigers are winners of back-to-back Western Division crowns.

“Florida is the team that we are all chasing,” said LSU head coach Fran Flory. “They have been the ones who have held the crown for a long time. Our team is very excited about the chance to play them.

LSU has been very successful at home over the past three seasons. The Tigers have lost only two matches, while posting a 21-2 record. The only two losses for LSU in that span were last season as the Tigers lost to No. 2 Penn State in five games and the seventh-ranked Gators in four games. LSU has also posted 18 three-game sweeps in those 23 matches, including three this season.

For the season, Florida leads LSU statistically in several categories. The Gators are out killing the Tigers, 16.6 to 15.4, while posting a .300 hitting percentage to .230 for LSU. The Tigers, however, lead Florida in service aces per game, coming in with 2.3 to 1.9 for the Gators. Florida holds a slight advantage in digs per game, averaging 16.9 to the Tigers’ 16.4. In addition, the Gators hold a slight advantage in blocks per game with 3.0 to 2.9 for LSU.

“We are going to have to play very well to stay on the court with them, but I think this team is capable,” said Flory. “We just have to stay within ourselves and our system has got to be very solid, while we get them out of theirs. First ball serving and passing will absolutely be the key.”

Lauren DeGirolamo leads the Tigers and ranks in the top 10 in the SEC with 1.40 blocks per game, just ahead of Brittnee Cooper with 1.39 blocks per game. DeGirolamo also leads LSU with a .375 hitting percentage while averaging 3.47 kills per game.

Kyna Washington leads the Tigers with 4.32 kills per game, followed by DeGirolamo, while Cooper, Marina Skender and Angela Bensend are all averaging over two kills a game. In her first season as the LSU setter, Maggie Lonergan is averaging 12.56 assists per game.

Elena Martinez leads the Tigers and the SEC with 5.93 digs per game. The junior libero has already broke the school records for digs in a four-game and five-game match and posted three 30-dig matches this season.

Marcie Hampton leads Florida with 4.13 kills per game, while current SEC Defensive Player of the Week Kisya Killingsworth boasts a team-best .412 hitting percentage. Kelsey Bowers leads the Gators with 1.29 blocks per game, followed by Killingsworth with 1.19. Reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Elyse Cusack leads Florida with 5.26 digs per game.

Florida leads the overall series with LSU, 26-12, and the Gators have won 22 straight over the Tigers. Florida is the only SEC team that the current LSU seniors have never defeated. The last time the Tigers topped the Gators was on Nov. 11, 1991, as Florida has only lost four conference matches since that time.

LSU returns to the road next weekend as the Tigers travel to Auburn and Georgia. The LSU Tigers will take on the Auburn Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m., before facing the Bulldogs on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT. The Tigers return home to face Alabama and Mississippi State the following weekend.