LSU Gold

BATON ROUGE — Sam Dabbs distributed 36 assists and fueled the No. 15 seeded LSU volleyball team to an impressive .351 hitting percentage as the Tigers picked up a dominant 3-0 sweep over Tulane [25-15, 25-12, 25-15] Friday during the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Maravich Center.

The Tigers (25-6) were hosting a NCAA Tournament match for the first time since 1991 and advance to face Texas A&M (19-10), a 3-1 winner over No. 19 Arizona, in Saturday’s NCAA Second Round contest. First serve is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Dabbs set a balanced attack and tacked on 10 digs to compile her 11th double-double season. The Tigers had six players register five kills or more highlighted by Brittnee Cooper, who ripped 11 spikes on a crisp .500 clip. Cooper also tallied seven blocks and LSU’s defense limited the Green Wave (18-10) to a .038 hitting percentage.

“The ball control happened first and our backcourt did a great job on first contact off serve-receive,” Dabbs said. “Lauren [Waclawczyk] did a great job at libero of just giving me every ball high when we needed it. Whenever that’s good, my job is real simple.”

Lauren DeGirolamo turned in a solid all-around effort with eight kills, eight digs and five blocks. The Tigers also received nine kills and four blocks from Angela Bensend, while Michele Williams chipped in six kills to go along with three stuffs.

Marina Skender popped six kills to tie two-time All-American Monique Adams [1989-91] for fifth place on the program’s career list. Her 13 digs allowed her to eclipse Wendy Stammer for the No. 6 position. The Croatia native now has 1,481 kills and 1,264 digs. 

Lauren Waclawczyk reeled in 14 digs to push her double-digit digs streak to seven matches and the Tigers converted on 77 percent of their sideout attempts.

“This was a great effort by our kids, and we executed the game plan exactly as we practiced,” head coach Fran Flory said. “I thought once again, as has been all year, the seniors did an excellent job of executing, maintaining poise, and efficiency at a super-high level. Tulane is a very good team, and we shut them down. I was especially happy with our backcourt defense and our blocking. I thought that truly dictated the outcome.”

The two teams split the first 14 points of the opening set before the Tigers ran off 15 of the next 20 points to build a 22-12 cushion.  A block by Bensend and Cooper gave LSU six stuffs for the frame and capped a 25-15 triumph. Bensend also knocked five kills for the Tigers.

LSU continued its strong defensive play and raced out to a 12-4 to start set two. A trio of spikes from Cooper and Bensend allowed the Tigers to extend their advantage to 23-7. Tulane got back to 24-12 before Cooper finished a perfect frame with her fourth kill.

Tulane used a pair of kills from Visnja Djurdjevic and Lindsey Shepard to go ahead 8-6 in the third set. The Tigers fired back with 10-2 spurt sparked by six straight points on Waclawczyk’s serve to surge ahead 16-9. She also cranked two aces during the run.  Cooper and DeGirolamo slapped five kills apiece during the frame as LSU secured its sweep with a 25-15 win. 
“We played Rice last weekend and our defensive effort wasn’t all that great,” DeGirolamo said. “We got back in the gym and we really worked on that. We had a defensive mindset. When you’re blocking well, it’s easier to play backcourt.”

Djurdjevic paced the Green Wave with nine kills, while Jenn Miller corralled a match-best 15 digs.

Live stats for the Texas A&M match are available in the Geaux Zone on LSUsports.net. Fans also can follow in-match updates of the 2009 SEC champions via www.twitter.com/lsuvolleyball.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net as well as in person starting at 6 p.m. when the Maravich Center box office opens.  General admission tickets start at $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for youth.

“I think this could be an interesting defensive battle,” Flory said. “They blast the ball offensively and come at you fast and heavy. They’re a senior-laden team as well. It’s going to be a tough and physical battle.”

ARIZONA HEAD COACH DAVE RUBIO

Opening statement …
“I want to congratulate Texas A&M on winning.”

On ending the season with a loss …
“I’ve been through 13 NCAA Tournaments now, and every tournament I’ve been in, I’ve ended with a loss. There’s only one team that ends up ending on a win, and that’s the national champion. Losing is typically inevitable. Disappointment goes along with being in the tournament. The disappointment for me was that we didn’t play well. We didn’t play at the level we are capable of playing. I don’t think it was because we were nervous or anxious about the match. I think that’s just what happens occasionally.”

On how he felt Arizona played against Texas A&M … 
“I thought Texas A&M served exceptionally well. I didn’t think we passed particularly well. I thought they passed exceptionally well. After they won, I thought they were in system all the time. I think the thing that hurt us more than anything was the fact that our serving was off. We lost all offense out of the middle. We became very one dimensional in our offense. Even then, we put ourselves in position in a couple of the sets to win. We just had no offense out of the middle. When you don’t have the offense out of the middle against a good team, it’s going to be tough to beat them. Obviously, Texas A&M is a good team.”

ARIZONA PLAYER QUOTES

Tiffany Owens

“Maybe it was some anxiety on the team. Maybe it was nervousness. I felt like we had to this particularly well in order for us to be successful. That’s what I felt like came from the team.”

Paige Weber

“There isn’t any reason why in any sport athletes don’t perform they way they usually do. It is a fact of life. I don’t think we came out nervous or anxious in the first game. In the first game, we had the chance to really destroy them. They cut a 10-point gap in the first game to a five-point gap. To many people, that doesn’t mean anything, but in terms of a team’s confidence, when everything you touch is going well, it can snowball into what Texas A&M was at the end of the game. They were a machine. Every ball that we sent their way, they handled the way we should’ve been handling the ball. It’s tough when you’re trying to stop a team running on all cylinders when you’re not. It’s almost impossible.

“Even with that, we still had opportunities. I think it’s hard when you come in here and get down because you know it could be your last game. It’s so hard to get that out of your mind in the fourth game. On a normal conference game, it doesn’t matter. You are just out there fighting. There is no thought process in the back of your head. In here it is. You try to keep those thoughts away as best you can, but it’s the reality of it. It’s really disappointing to come to your first tournament and feel this. I guess that’s just the way it is.”

TEXAS A&M QUOTES

Head Coach Laurie Corbelli

Opening statement…
“Well, obviously we’re really excited. We’ve been on a win streak lately. We feel like we’ve had a lot of momentum going into the tournament. It’s a lot about our super-positive attitude tonight that I’m impressed with. Once we got the jitters out, we had to get a good feel and chemistry with this group. Then we started to play our volleyball. It was one of the more fun matches I’ve coached in a long time.”

On what changed after the first set…
“I thought our passing was really off in the first set. It was uncertain, we were hesitant, and I knew that’s not how we play typically. I just think we needed to settle down. We knew we weren’t in our game yet. Once our passing got going, I thought the hitters and setters got into a rhythm.”

On the absence of first team All Big 12 selection Sarah Ammerman…
“Sarah broke a team rule and the penalty was sitting out. [It occurred] recently, over the last few days.”

On the team’s effort without Ammerman …
“Amazing, we’ve got a lot of talent. We’re pretty deep at every position. Kristen[Schevikhoven] had to miss our opening Big 12 match and our backup setter set us to a 3-0 match against one of the Big 12 teams. So, we’ve got people who are waiting to get on the court if something happens to a starter. I was really proud of Kelsey [Black] for stepping up. She’s been chomping at the bit to get on the court. I really don’t think the team ever thought we’d skip a beat.”
 
Texas A&M Player Quotes

Outside Hitter Mary Batis

On if they played with a loose attitude…
“It felt great. I mean, it was fun. We were playing well, and you play the best when you’re loose. I guess we were loose.”

Setter Kristen Schevikhoven

On if the team typically plays with a lot of emotion…
“We try to. It’s one of the things we try to key on to give us momentum. It’s more fun when you’re jumping around and screaming.”

TULANE HEAD COACH SINISA MOMIC QUOTES

Opening statement …
“Overall, I can say LSU outplayed us on every level at every skill. We couldn’t follow a game plan because we couldn’t technically perform skills to some basic level. We were struggling. We weren’t even to the point we could challenge them on a certain level. With their passing and offense through the middle and outside, LSU was pretty hard to stop. At certain points, we were handling our serves, and to some extent, our offense was working, but most of the time it wasn’t sufficient at all. Congrats to LSU. We were outplayed on any level.”

TULANE PLAYER QUOTES

Jenn Miller

On the difference between playing LSU during the regular season and in the NCAA Tournament …
“I feel like the level of competition in our conference is a big difference. They just play bigger teams and are used to playing games of this caliber. Our conference isn’t there yet. I feel that just having consistent, tough matches make a difference.”

LSU POSTMATCH QUOTES

Head Coach Fran Flory

Opening statement…
“This was a great effort by our kids, and we executed the game plan exactly as we practiced. I thought once again, as has been all year, the seniors did an excellent job of executing, maintaining poise, and efficiency at a super-high level. Tulane is a very good team, and we shut them down. I was especially happy with our backcourt defense and our blocking. I thought that truly dictated the outcome.”

On the play of Angela Bensend
“Benny has been good for the last month. I think Sam [Dabbs] does a great job of picking and choosing when we use her and creating great opportunities. Through the middle of that match, especially in the second set, she got a little frustrated because her approach angles were wrong. She wasn’t seeing the court well enough, but she’s so mature and she knows the game so well that she adjusted. She just did a tremendous job.”

On why Angela Bensend thrives in postseason play…
Benny brings it when the chips are down, there’s no doubt. She’s someone that, from her freshman year until now, we have always been able to count on in big matches to take big swings. We don’t give her a million swings, so I think that has a little to do with it because we create the right opportunity. But when you create the right opportunity, you’ve got to be able to finish and she does.”

On if having a versatile offense tonight was part of the game plan…
“Absolutely, the game plan from the start was to have a balanced offensive effort so that if we were fortunate enough to advance, playing back-to-back [nights], we felt it was important to show more balance. I think Sam [Dabbs] did a great job and Sam’s correct that our ball control created that opportunity for our offense.”

On the second-round matchup with Texas A&M…
“Texas A&M plays great defense, and I think this could be an interesting defensive battle. They blast the ball offensively and come at you fast and heavy. They don’t back down. It’s going to be a tough and physical battle. Everyone around the country was talking about whether A&M was in [the NCAA’s]. I didn’t have any doubt A&M was a quality team and worthy of being in. They showed it today and are a senior-laden team as well. I think we need to take a little time to recover and regroup and we’ll get a game plan put together tonight.”

Setter Sam Dabbs

On what enabled the offense to be so successful…
“The ball control happened first. Our backcourt did a great job on first contact off serve-receive. Lauren Waclawczyk did a great job at libero of just giving me every ball high when we needed it. Whenever that’s good, my job is real simple. I just have to see where the block is going and then my hitters will put the ball away for me.”

On playing against one of her best friends in tomorrow’s matchup against Texas A&M…
“My childhood best friend, Jenny Banse No. 15, I’ve known her since third grade. She’s on that team, and we played club together for eight years. It’s going to be fun playing against her.”

Middle blocker Lauren DeGirolamo

On the team’s improved defense in tonight’s match…
“We played Rice last weekend and our defensive effort wasn’t all that great. We got back in the gym and we really worked on that. We had a defensive mindset. When you’re blocking well, it’s easier to play backcourt.”