Volleyball Set for Showdown at No. 2 Nebraska

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Volleyball Set for Showdown at No. 2 Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. — The LSU volleyball team returns to the state of Nebraska this weekend for the Ameritas Players Challenge and will face off against the No. 2-ranked Huskers on Friday at 6 p.m. in the Devaney Center.

This marquee match-up between Nebraska and LSU is the Huskers’ lone match this season scheduled to take place in the Devaney Center, site of Nebraska basketball. One of the largest regular-season crowds in NCAA volleyball history is expected, as more than 12,750 advance tickets have been sold for Friday’s matches as of Thursday morning.

“Nebraska is one of the premier place to play in the country, and we’re excited about the opportunities and the challenges that playing there will present,” LSU head coach Fran Flory said. “We’ll be playing the No. 2 team in the country in front of thousands of people and understand how difficult that will be. But this match should put us in the limelight and really help us see what we are made of.”

After opening the season with a No. 7 national ranking, Nebraska has compiled a perfect 6-0 record and moved all the way up to No. 2 in the polls. Wins for the Huskers include over then-No. 2 Stanford and then-No. 4 USC. All six of their wins have been sweeps except for a 3-1 decision over USC. With last weekend’s tournament title, Nebraska has won the last five tournaments they have participated in dating back to the 2002 season.

The Huskers own a 6-0 advantage over the Tigers all-time, including a 3-0 sweep in the last meeting on Sept. 6, 2003 in the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans.

The scene shifts back to the Nebraska Coliseum on Saturday afternoon with LSU’s match against either St. John’s or New Mexico at 12:30 and Nebraska’s against the other at 3 p.m. Friday’s two winners will face off Saturday as will the two losers.

LSU won its only previous meeting with St. John’s, 3-0, in 2006 as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge in Orlando, Fla. New Mexico has won seven of 10 decisions over LSU, including a 3-1 victory in the last meeting back in 1996 in the Airport Marina Challenge in Los Angeles. The last Tiger victory over the Lobos came in 1992, when the Tigers defeated then-No. 9 New Mexico in the Volleyball Monthly Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Tigers are coming off of two matches against in-state foes Nicholls State and McNeese State as part of the McNeese Invitational. LSU was supposed to play host to the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, but made a last-minute entry into this tournament after the effects of Hurricane Gustav forced the Tigers to cancel their tournament. LSU swept both matches, posting a season-best .311 hitting percentage in the last match against the Cowgirls.

“This week has really served as a stabilizing one for our team,” Flory said. “It’s been great to be able to practice in our own gym and sleep in our own beds, and we’re ready for our schedule to be back to normal again. Having to deal with the adversity we did the past few weeks, there was definitely some mental fatigue as well as physical fatigue. But we’ve had a chance to get back into a little rhythm, and hopefully we bounce back strong.”

Senior Kyna Washington has led the Tigers offensively through the early part of the season, posting a team-high 71 kills with a 3.74 kills per set average. She has led the team in kills in all five matches so far this year.

Defensively, Elena Martinez is tops on the team with 81 digs, while setter Sam Dabbs will be counted upon to pace the offense with her 9.41 assists per set average.

The Ameritas Players Challenge is the last tournament for the Tigers this year, as they open Southeastern Conference play next weekend on the road at South Carolina and Florida.