Volleyball Regains Share of SEC West Lead, 3-2

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Volleyball Regains Share of SEC West Lead, 3-2

STARKVILLE, Miss. — It took five games but the LSU volleyball team posted a 30-24, 30-27, 26-30, 29-31, 15-12, over Mississippi State to sweep the season series with the Bulldogs on Friday night at the Newell-Grissom Building.

With the win, the Tigers improved to 21-6 overall and 12-5 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU is now in a dead heat with both Ole Miss and Alabama after the Rebels defeated the Crimson Tide on Thursday. The Tigers will face Alabama on Sunday in a match that puts the winner in a great position for the Western Division title with only three conference matches remaining.

“It was a very good win for us tonight,” said LSU head coach Fran Flory. “We challenged this team and as much as I would have liked to have finished this game in three, I think you have to credit Mississippi State for fighting when their backs were against the wall. They made every play they had to make.”

The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 11-15 on the season and 6-11 in league play. LSU has now won four straight over Mississippi State after knocking off the Bulldogs in Baton Rouge earlier in the season.

The Tigers improved to 6-3 in five-game matches this season, snapping a four-match road losing streak, with the win. It also snapped a three-match losing streak in five-game matches on the road, having lost to Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina on the road in five games in October.

“I think in the long run for the remainder of this season, this is going to be a productive match for us and maybe even a turning point that we won on the road in five games,” said Flory. “I think this was a real positive step for us, not something maybe we would have planned, but certainly I am really proud of this team. I am proud of how they responded in game five and took charge of the match. We were able to actually finish this time, so maybe that is a big step for us.”

Lauren DeGirolamo led LSU with 20 kills with a .529 hitting percentage and posted her second double-double of the season with 11 blocks. It marked the fifth double-double of her career and her four career 20-kill match. Brittnee Cooper added 12 kills with eight blocks, while Kyna Washington posted 10 kills, four service aces and a career-high eight blocks.

Elena Martinez led the Tigers with her 17th 20-dig match of the season, which gave her 593 digs for the year, six shy of moving into second place in single-season digs in SEC history. In addition, Martinez recorded three service aces. Marina Skender posted 13 digs, which moved her to within eight of recording 900 for her career.

As a team, LSU was out killed by Mississippi State, 75-56, but made up for that with 20 fewer attacking errors. The Tigers contributed to the 45 errors committed by the Bulldogs with 21 blocks, a half block shy of a season best for the team. In addition, Mississippi State recorded only three blocks in the match.

The teams showed why they are ranked first and third in the conference in service aces as LSU posted 10 for the match and Mississippi State had nine. In one of their best serving matches recently, the Tigers also committed only nine service errors for a positive serving margin. Conversely, the Bulldogs committed 16 service errors to end up with a seven point difference negatively for the match.

LSU came out and took the lead early in the first game, 7-4, before Mississippi State came back to tie it at eight. With the score tied at 13, the Bulldogs scored three straight to take their largest lead of the game, 16-13. The Tigers tied it up again at 18 and after three more tied scores, LSU took the lead for good, 22-21, to start a six-point run. As part of the game-changing run, Washington posted three consecutive service aces, before a service error ended the run. The Tigers went on to take the first game, 30-24, on the fifth kill of the game by DeGirolamo.

In the second game, LSU fell behind, 6-3, before coming back to tie it at six as part of a five-point run. The Tigers stretched their lead to 14-8 on a kill by Cooper. The Bulldogs inched back into the game before eventually tying it at 21. With the score tied at 22, LSU went on a four-point run that again put the Tigers in a great position late in the game. Mississippi State never got closer than two the rest of the way as LSU closed it out on a kill by DeGirolamo to head into the locker room with the two-game advantage, 30-27.

The Bulldogs came out and scored five straight to open the third game. The Tigers then went on a four-point run of their own to get within one, 5-4. Mississippi State opened it up again and stretched its lead to 14-8. LSU fell behind by as many as eight, 20-12 and again at 21-13, but kept plugging away. The Tigers rallied back to within two, 25-23, the closest since trailing 6-4, but LSU could not get over the hump. The Bulldogs kept the match alive by taking game three, 30-26.

The fourth game was a very streaky one, which saw the score bounce back and forth dramatically throughout including 16 ties and 12 lead changes. After Mississippi State led 3-1, the Tigers tied it at four, but fell behind by as many as four, 8-4. LSU again tied it up at nine and took the lead, 11-9. The Tigers led by as many as three, 15-12, before the Bulldogs tied it at 16 on their way to a 19-17 lead. The game was tied once again at 19, 20 and 21, before LSU stretched its lead out to four, 24-21.

After a Mississippi State timeout, the Bulldogs tied it up at 24. After four more tied scores, Mississippi State had the first game point, 29-28, but the Tigers fought it off. On a controversial touch call, the Bulldogs earned a kill that gave Mississippi State its second game point. The Bulldogs converted with an ace and sent the match to a fifth game, 31-29.

In the fifth game, LSU came out and took the first two points before Mississippi State went on a 3-0 run to earn its only advantage of the game, 3-2. The Tigers countered with a two-point swing that put LSU head for good. The Tigers stretched their lead to five, 9-4 before the Bulldogs began inching back into the game. LSU was two points away from the win, 13-8, but Mississippi State scored four straight to get within one. The Tigers came out and got a kill by Cooper and a block by DeGirolamo to close it out, 15-12.

The Tigers close out their regular season road matches at Alabama on Sunday. LSU will take on the Crimson Tide at 1:30 p.m. in a match that could decide the SEC Western Division. Alabama leads the SEC West by one game, but the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide in Baton Rouge in five games earlier this year. LSU will be looking to end Alabama’s streak of six consecutive home wins over the Tigers, dating back to the Tigers’ last win in the CAVE in 2001.

LSU def. Mississippi State, 30-24, 30-27, 26-30, 29-31, 15-12

LSU (21-6, 12-5 SEC) (Kills-aces-blocks) – Lauren DeGirolamo 20-1-11; Brittnee Cooper 12-0-8; Kyna Washington 10-4-8; Marina Skender 8-0-3; Angela Bensend 3-0-2; Brittney Johnson 1-1-4; Elena Martinez 1-3-0; Michelle Hensgens 1-1-0; Totals 56-10-21.0. (Assists) ? Brittney Johnson 37. (Dig leaders) – Elena Martinez 20; Marina Skender 13; Michelle Hensgens 9; Kyna Washington 8; Brittney Johnson 8

Mississippi State (11-15, 6-11 SEC) (Kills-aces-blocks) ? Jamie Joyner 23-0-1; Eva Kriegel 13-2-0; Ioana Demian 13-3-0; Erin Seago 11-2-2; Ashley Newsome 9-0-2; Lauren Kowal 6-0-1; Megan Lukasek 0-2-0; Totals 75-9-3.0. (Assists) – Eva Kriegel 47. (Dig leaders) ? Megan Lukasek 21; Jamie Joyner 15; Ioana Demian 14; Eva Kriegel 12