No. 16 Volleyball Faces No. 2 Florida
BATON ROUGE – The No. 16 LSU volleyball team opens the second leg of its four-match SEC road swing and faces its toughest challenge of the season to date when the Tigers meet up against No. 2 Florida Friday at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
LSU (13-0, 4-0 SEC) has put together its best start in program history to eclipse the 12-0 mark set by the 1991 team on the way to the program’s second consecutive Final Four appearance, while Florida (10-1, 3-0 SEC) has risen to its highest ranking since the 2003 season on the strength of seven victories over AVCA Top 25 teams.
LSU swept the season series from the Gators last season and ended a 26-match winning streak by Florida that dated back to 1991.
“Florida is a challenge every year, and we certainly have a lot of respect for their program,” head coach Fran Flory said. “It’s a tough place to be the visiting team because of their fan support, but a great environment to play in. I think our team is managing well. We’re going to go in there, play really hard and see what happens.”
LSU’s attack continues to be fueled by Angela Bensend, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week. She not only headlines the SEC but checks in at No. 13 nationally with 4.56 kills per set. The Plano, Texas, native has posted seven straight double digit kill efforts, and LSU is 25-1 over Bensend’s career when she reaches that feat.
Desiree Elliott has collected back-to-back SEC Freshman of the Week awards. She has reeled off over a .300 hitting clip in eight of her last 10 matches, including a league-best .458 ratio in league matches.
“Angela and Desiree have played really heard and been so significant to us,” Flory said. “The best part about both of them is that they don’t really care about individual awards. They’re great honors, but the most important thing is that our team continues to play well.”
Madie Jones has come on strong with double figure kills in four of her last five outings. She has hammered home 3.23 kills per set on a .367 hitting percentage in league matches, both feats are SEC Top 10 caliber.
Michele Williams continues to be ranked among the SEC’s Top 10 with 3.33 kills per set on a .362 hitting percentage. She also averages 1.00 blocks per set. The Tigers along with Alabama are the only SEC teams to have two players tabbed inside the league’s top 10 in kills per set.
“Michele has really stepped up her efficiency,” Flory said. “I think her speed and technique are back. It took her a little time to get going again. I think we wore her out during non-conference playing three physical matches a weekend. She’s physically on the upside now and I look for her to have a great weekend.”
Brittney Johnson has created the opportunities for the quartet of hitters listed above. She has led the Tigers to over a .300 hitting percentage seven times, including three straight efforts capped by a .358 mark last time out at Mississippi State.
Johnson, a Baton Rouge native, also has been a major part as LSU has garnered NCAA Top 10 rankings in kills per set [14.70], assists per set [13.72] and hitting percentage [.288], all of which also pace the SEC.
LSU’s back room group headed by Lauren Waclawczyk, Sam Delahoussaye and Meghan Mannari has garnered a 97 percent [227-233] serve-receive effort coupled with an impressive 73 percent [194-267] sideout efficiency to start SEC play.
Waclawczyk has spearheaded the group with 10 double figure dig efforts along with the fifth-most scoops in the SEC at 4.14 per set. Delahoussaye and Mannari also have teamed for 10 double digit dig performances and both have secured over 2.40 per frame.
“The bottom line is that our ball control and our defense are going to define us,” Flory said. “Our system works, it’s fast, but it only works if we’re in system. I think our back court people headed by Sam, Meghan and Lauren have done a great job of being balanced and not letting anything be too big. They keep things in perspective and a lot of balls off the floor. It’s been exciting to watch them play and see them develop.”
First serve for Friday’s match is slated for 6 p.m. CT with 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.