BATON ROUGE – Angela Bensend cranked a match-high 18 kills and reeled in nine digs as the No. 21 LSU volleyball team picked up a rousing 3-0 shutout victory over North Carolina [25-22, 25-21, 25-15] to open the Tiger Classic Friday at the Maravich Center.

Before its home opener, LSU (7-0) unveiled a banner to honor its 2009 SEC championship season. The Tigers improved to 7-0 for the first time since the 2005 season. 

“It was a special night dropping the banner,” head coach Fran Flory said. “The emotion was really, really high in the beginning of the match, and I was really concerned that we were going to be over emotional. It’s a great win. North Carolina is a great, great team, but we have to be a little more balanced with a little more rhythm to our game.”

Brittney Johnson set LSU to a scorching .358 hitting percentage for the match, its fourth plus .300 clip of the season. The Baton Rouge native handed out 34 assists to go along with eight digs and seven digs, nearly missing a triple-double.

Madie Jones and Michele Williams powered home nine kills apiece, while Desiree Elliott chipped in six kills and added four blocks.

Lauren Waclawczyk corralled 14 digs to captain the back row and secured her third straight perfect passer rating. Sam Delahoussaye posted nine digs, while Meghan Mannari tracked down six digs as the Tigers racked up a stimulating 72 percent sideout efficiency for the match.

“Once we kind of got our passing down, our offense was so fast that no one could stop us,” Bensend said. “Our middles [blockers] are unstoppable and when our middles [blockers] get going it helps the outsides get free every time.”

The two teams went back-and-forth during the first set as neither team could gain more than a three-point edge. After trading 11 ties and four lead changes, LSU took control of the frame at 21-21. Bensend and Williams connected kills to build a 23-21 edge. After a UNC sideout, Jones and Johnson ran off consecutive spikes of their own to notch the 25-22 triumph.  

In the second set, the Tar Heels went ahead 16-14 on a Heather Henry kill. Out of a LSU timeout, the Tigers regained the momentum and collected eight of the next nine points to go up 22-17. Bensend fueled the spurt with four kills. UNC got back within three points on two occasions, but Bensend popped another spike to close out the 25-21 win.

“Angela has been the one all year,” Flory said. “It’s interesting to me that she can continue to do that when teams actually have film on us, have a game plan against us and she’s still able to be that effective. To have 18 kills, to dig that many balls, to serve that well, and she did a little bit of everything. It’s a great tribute to the type of player she’s developed into.”

LSU turned up the defensive intensity out of the locker room and raced out to 10-3 advantage to open the third set. The Tigers forced UNC into a quartet of attack errors coupled with two kills each from Bensend and Williams. LSU never looked back and won the fame going away 25-15.  

LSU finishes its non-conference slate Saturday with a pair of matches against Rice and New Mexico State. First serve is slated for 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.

Live video and live stats available on LSUsports.net. Fans also can follow live in-match updates on the team’s official blog at http://lsuvolleyball.posterous.com.

“We have to put three solid matches together,” Flory said. “We haven’t done that this year. We scheduled with the mindset that we’re going to have to be good on the road first with some tough opponents and then have three really tough matches in basically 24 hours. I think we’re prepared. Physically, we’ve got to recover a little bit, but I think we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

LSU Volleyball Quotes
Tiger Classic – September 10, 2010

HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY

On playing at home…
“It was a special night dropping the banner. The emotion was really, really high in the beginning of the match, and I was really concerned that we were going to be over emotional. I think we kind of started that way. We had a great hitting percentage and we played very well. I don’t know that we truly ever really got into our groove. We just weren’t smooth in transition. It’s a great win. North Carolina is a great, great team, but we have to be a little more balanced with a little more rhythm to our game.  We didn’t have that tonight.”

On Angela Bensend’s performance…
“Angela has been the one all year. It’s interesting to me that she can continue to do that when teams actually have film on us, have a game plan against us and she’s still able to be that effective. To have 18 kills, to dig that many balls, to serve that well, and she did a little bit of everything. It’s a great tribute to the type of player she’s developed into.”

On Brittney Johnson’s adjustments in the locker room…
“We talked about it coming out of the locker room and couldn’t act like we were up 2-0. We had to act like this was the first set and most important of that match. I thought our team did a really balanced job of coming out, not overplaying and coming through with the great kills. You have to attribute that to [Brittney] Johnson. She did a great job of finding the right hitters in the right situation and creating excellent opportunities for them.”

On a solid night for the passers…
“I’ve said it all year, we’re going to hang our hat on defense and passing. We were disappointed in the first two sets that we weren’t winning the serve and pass battle. That’s something we take great pride in, we’ve worked really hard on, and we challenged our team to come out in the third set to win that battle. I think the score was indicative that we were able to do that.”

On keeping the momentum going against Rice and New Mexico State…
“We have to put three solid matches together. We haven’t done that this year. We scheduled with the mindset that we’re going to have to be good on the road first with some tough opponents and then have three really tough matches in basically 24 hours. I think we’re prepared. Physically, we’ve got to recover a little bit, but I think we’ll be ready tomorrow.”

OUTSIDE HITTER ANGELA BENSEND

On getting the offense into a rhythm after the first set…
“Once we kind of got our passing down, our offense was so fast that no one could stop us. Our middles [blockers] are unstoppable and when our middles [blockers] get going it helps the outsides get free every time.”

On adjustments at halftime…
“In the locker room, we’re not talking about finishing. We’re talking about coming out like it’s the first set again. We pretend like we haven’t played them at all so it gets us more motivated to come out and win the last set.”

On how it feels to be at home…
“We love being home. We love the fans and the energy. We just play all out at our home court. It was a lot of fun tonight.”

On playing Rice and New Mexico State tomorrow…
“It’s going to take a lot from us. We have to make sure we take it one match at a time. We get ready for Rice in the morning and then New Mexico State at night. We’ll just take it one match at a time.”