Volleyball Earns Sweep Against Gamecocks
BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU volleyball team, looking to bounce back after a tough loss on Wednesday, hit a strong .226 as a group and held the South Carolina Gamecocks to a sub-.100 hitting clip as the Tigers earned a sweep 25-19, 25-18, 25-19 Sunday afternoon inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
In a total team effort, using a different lineup than they have been accustomed to, LSU (5-8, 1-1 Southeastern) earned its first home win of the season on Sunday finishing with double-digit kills in all three sets against South Carolina (7-8, 0-2), while holding the Gamecocks to a paltry .073 hitting percentage over the course of the match.
“We are excited we got the win. We didn’t play exceptionally well. We weren’t very efficient, but a win without Katie Lindelow on the court is a quality win,” head coach Fran Flory said. “We just wanted to preserve her for a few more jumps down the line. Thankfully (Cati) Leak did great, and (Gina) Tillis did a good job coming off the bench into the lineup did a great job tonight.”
Leading the way for LSU offensively was sophomore hitting Gina Tillis who led all players in the match with 14 kills, coming just shy of a double-double with nine digs and tying for the match lead with six blocks. Cati Leak finished with nine kills and nine digs, while Toni Rodriguez chipped in eight with two digs.
“After losing to Arkansas last week, I think today’s win will boost our confidence for our next game next Friday,” Tillis said.
Setter Cheyenne Wood finished with 19 assists, tacking on eight digs and two kills, while Lindsay Flory had 11 assists with a block and a dig. Senior Haley Smith led all players with 16 digs in the win, serving up five assists, as Tiara Gibson helped lead the blocking contingent with her six blocks and four kills, as on the day the squad had nine to South Carolina’s four.
“Today’s win is definitely a big relief for our team,” Smith said. “We played really hard tonight. That’s one of our biggest attributes on this team. We might not be the most talented in the SEC, but we do work hard and outwork teams.”
Sarah Blomgren had eight kills to lead the Gamecocks, adding seven digs with two blocks and an ace. Aubrey Ezell had 17 assists and 11 digs for the double-double, as Emma Lock finished the match with 11 digs as well.
LSU’s highest hitting clip of the night came in the match opening set, as LSU hit .250 with 13 kills to just four errors. The engine for that attack came from Tillis who earned six of her 14 in the opening frame alone, hitting .364.
The five ties and two lead changes came within the first 14 points of the first, with the set knotted at 7-7 after a kill from Rodriguez. That kill was a part of a three-point swing for the Tigers that gave the home side a 9-7 advantage, ended with a kill from Olivia Beyer. While LSU would not lose the lead for the rest of the set, South Carolina would not quit going into the media timeout trailing by one at 15-14.
South Carolina would get that close again, cutting LSU’s lead from three to just one at 19-18, but it was all LSU from there as after a Tiger timeout the squad would capture the next four points to go up 23-18, allowing just one Gamecock point before pulling out the set 25-19.
LSU was a little more balanced in the second set, as six different players earned at least one kill in the match, with Tillis, Leak and Gibson having three each, while just committing four errors as a group to South Carolina’s 10. However, the set was much closer than the numbers showed as LSU was 9-for-19 on sideout chances while South Carolina was 9-for-25.
The action picked up with LSU seeing a three-point lead evaporate and turn into a one-point deficit as South Carolina took a 12-11 lead over the Tigers forcing a timeout. The short break worked as LSU captured the next four-straight to go up 15-12 and force South Carolina into a timeout. The Gamecocks would be forced to call another as LSU earned four of the next seven to extend its lead to four points at 19-15.
South Carolina would only be able to pull within three of LSU for the rest of the set, stalling as an offense at the 18-point mark, with LSU closing out the set with three consecutive points to go into the break up two, winning 25-18.
The Gamecocks came out as a different team after the intermission, jutting out to a 3-1 lead and proving to be stronger offensively in the third set, as by the end they only hit into only four errors, their lowest of the match.
Down by five points, the match completely turned on its ear as LSU exploded to go on an eight-point swing and the only thing halting the onslaught was the media timeout with the Tigers leading 15-12. LSU was in control from that point on, as an ace from Leak forced South Carolina into the only timeout it used for the rest of the match with LSU leading 20-16, coming only as close as four points before Gamecocks served themselves out of the match on match point giving LSU the sweep winning the third set 25-19.
“We have to maintain our offensive rhythm and improve,” Flory said. “We have to take care of the ball. We have to control the ball a little better than what we did today. I thought we were very resilient and played hard tonight. I am proud of that.”
LSU hits the road next weekend for two matches, opening the swing with a match against the Georgia Bulldogs next Friday night in Athens. The contest will be streamed live on SEC Network+.
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