No. 19 Volleyball Slams Auburn in SEC Opener

by Matt Dunaway
Printable Box Score Fran Flory Post-Match Interview +0
No. 19 Volleyball Slams Auburn in SEC Opener

BATON ROUGE – Angela Bensend equaled a career-best 22 kills as the No. 19 LSU volleyball team started SEC play in-style posting a 3-1 triumph over Auburn [22-25, 25-20, 25-17, 25-20] Friday as 1,534 fans poured into the Maravich Center.

The crowd was the eighth-largest crowd in program history and witnessed the Tigers (10-0, 1-0 SEC) move to 10-0 for the first time since the 1991 season.

“It was really great night, the crowd was awesome,” head coach Fran Flory said. “I think we were almost trying too hard to put on a too good of a show in the first set and maybe half of the second. Instead of really electrifying us, I think we felt like we needed to really play well in front of all these people and get them to come back. I thought we did a great job once we settled in. I can’t say enough of how appreciative we are of everybody that came out tonight.”

LSU has won six of their last seven SEC openers dating back to the 2004 season. The Tigers also pushed their SEC Western Division winning streak to 31 consecutive matches going back to 2006.

Bensend ripped 14 of her 22 kills for a .385 hitting percentage during sets three and four. She also tacked on 18 digs for her fourth double-double of the season.

“Benny had a little slow start and it took her a little time to get into the groove,” Flory said. “She had some uncharacteristic errors in the first set but really came back. I’m really proud of the poise and composure she showed to maintain and persevere through a difficult stretch.”

Madie Jones powered home 13 kills on 29 swings for a .414 hitting clip, while Michele Williams contributed 11 spikes of her own. Desiree Elliott cranked nine kills to garner a .421 hitting percentage.

“Madie has gotten better and better each weekend,” Flory said. “She’s never really been bad, but she has stepped into a roll that has been more and more significant. She’s balancing our offense with those swings. She’s a finisher, she’s a terminator. That’s why she plays the position she does, and I look for her to continue to improve through the remainder of the season.”

Brittney Johnson dished out a match-best 52 assists and set LSU to a scorching .375 ratio over the final two sets of the match. She also added nine digs nearly missing her third straight double-double and tallied four kills to go along with four blocks.

Lauren Waclawczyk reeled in 19 digs followed by Meghan Mannari‘s career-high 16 digs to anchor the back row. LSU boasted an impressive 76 percent sideout efficiency, 63-for-83, during the match.  The Tigers also were a solid 69-for-70 in serve-receive attempts.

Both teams put on an offensive showcase out of the gate and connected for over a .300 hitting percentage during the first half of the opening frame. After eight ties and two lead changes, Auburn surged ahead 19-16 on a Sarah Bullock kill. LSU charged back to get back to 19-18, but Auburn answered with three quick points capped by a block on Bensend before closing out the frame, 25-22.

LSU battled back in set two with strong back row presence and secured 24 digs to limit Auburn to a paltry .070 hitting effort for the frame. Down 12-11, LSU pieced together a 7-2 spurt highlighted by a Jones-Elliott block along with a Jones kill to go ahead 18-14. Auburn would get no closer than three points, the later at 23-20, as Johnson put the finishing touches on a 25-20 win with a solo stuff and a kill.  

Out of the locker room, LSU built an 11-6 advantage to start the third set via two kills apiece from Elliott, Jones and Williams. Auburn pulled back to 19-16, but LSU fired back with six of the last seven points as Bensend and Elliott teamed for a quintet of kills to notch the 25-17 victory.

Set four was much of the same as LSU led wire-to-wire and saved its best all-around performance for last. The Tigers hammered down 19 kills on a .444 hitting percentage coupled with a 19-for-21 sideout efficiency. LSU didn’t look back from an early 12-8 lead and Bensend provided the final blow with a crosscourt kill to put away the 25-20 win.     

“I’m really proud of our team tonight because we didn’t let down after that first set,” Jones said. “We knew we just had to come right back fighting. Auburn is one of those teams that isn’t going to let up against you at any point. I think we knew that, we just kept going at them, and we got the job done.”

Bullock headlined Auburn (9-3, 0-1 SEC) with 14 kills. No other Auburn players were able to record double digit kills. Defensively, Liz Crouch secured a match-high 26 digs. 

LSU wraps up SEC opening weekend Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. tilt against Georgia at the Maravich Center. Live video and live stats are available on LSUsports.net. Fans also can follow live in-match updates on the team’s official blog at http://lsuvolleyball.posterous.com.
 
The defending SEC champions will be honored Saturday on the gridiron at the end of the first quarter of Saturday’s football home opener against Mississippi State.

Volleyball – LSU vs. Auburn
September 17, 2010

HEAD COACH FRAN FLORY

On the electric atmosphere to start SEC play…
“It was really great night, the crowd was awesome. I think we were almost trying too hard to put on a too good of a show in the first set and maybe half of the second. Instead of really electrifying us, I think we felt like we needed to really play well in front of all these people and get them to come back. I thought we did a great job once we settled in. I can’t say enough of how appreciative we are of everybody that came out tonight.”

On Angela Bensond’s big night…
“Benny had a little slow start. She didn’t have the full week of practice, we held her a little bit because she really carried a huge load for us in the first three weekends. It took her a little time to get into the groove. She had some uncharacteristic errors in the first set but really came back. I’m really proud of the poise and composure she showed to maintain and persevere through a difficult stretch.”

On Madie Jones‘ performance…
“Madie has gotten better and better each weekend. She’s never really been bad, but she has stepped into a roll that has been more and more significant. She’s balancing our offense with those swings. She’s a finisher, she’s a terminator. That’s why she plays the position she does, and I look for her to continue to improve through the remainder of the season.”

On getting Desiree Elliott back on track…
“Desi was just tired. That many matches for a freshman with no subs. she just needed a little time to recover. I think that what we did this week in practice worked for us and certainly we got some recovery. We got some people back in a pretty good grove.”

On the solid night for the back row…
“We were very balanced and Auburn played very well in set one. We didn’t play poorly, Auburn played great and sided out 78 percent. That’s certainly well enough to win, 70 percent is well enough to win. We knew we needed to increase our defensive intensity, and we needed to get a few more blocks or at least touches on balls. As we were able to adjust to their offense, our defense really came around. I can’t say enough in the four set, 90 percent side out percentage, you’re awfully hard to beat when you’re doing those things.”

On Sunday’s match against Georgia…
“Georgia is a completely different challenge for us. They have a veteran middle that’s very good. They have a couple of outsides that are very solid. They are a balanced and good defensive team. They put pressure on you in a little different way that Auburn does. We’re going to have to get in the gym in the morning and watch some more film. Our kids are doing a great job so far of preparing watching film and will have to be ready for a very tough match on Sunday afternoon.”

LSU OH MADIE JONES

On starting SEC play off with a win…
“It’s a real good start for us. We didn’t want to take the whole undefeated season thing in mind when we started this game Our goal was to make make sure we started the SEC off on a right note and I definitely think we did that tonight.”

On the adjustments the team made after losing the first set…
“I’m really proud of our team tonight because we didn’t let down after that first set. We knew we just had to come right back fighting. Auburn is one of those teams that isn’t going to let up against you at any point. I think we knew that, we just kept going at them, and we got the job done.”

On her offensive performance…
“It was really exciting, Johnson and I were definitely clicking tonight. When you’re getting a lot of digs and the other teams getting a lot of digs, there’s a lot of excitement going on. It’s really easy to compete like that.”

On the atmosphere of the 1500 + crowd…
“Once you come out of the locker room and you see the fans all the way up to the second tier you realize all those people are here to support us. It makes you want to win even that much more. The energy in the gym tonight made us want to kick their butts, it was really fun.”

On upcoming match against Georgia…
“I think we definitely have to let this win go. We’re really excited about it but we’ve got to refocus in order to win Sunday. We’ll prepare for that and I’m just definitely excited about the opportunity to get another win.”