Volleyball To Wrap Up Season At Tennessee
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The LSU Volleyball team (9-11), winners of its past four matches, will have a chance to improve .500 in its final two matches of the season as the Tigers are slated to face the Tennessee Volunteers (10-8) on Wednesday and Thursday to wrap up an unprecedented season.
Both matches will stream on the SEC Network + and are set to begin at 1 p.m. CT both days.
“We’re really excited,” said head coach Fran Flory, “and I’m super proud of our team’s effort, resiliency and commitment through the spring semester.”
Covid affected the start date of the SEC season as the Tigers did not have their first match until October 17 at Texas A&M. That was 157 days ago and after playing countable volleyball matches for the first time ever in a spring semester, LSU is prepped to wrap its season up in Knoxville at Thompson-Boling Arena.
“I could not be more proud of our group,” said Flory, “and I am excited to end on a high note. We know Tennessee is a very good opponent and they’re trying to do the same thing.”
The Tigers are playing their best volleyball as the season winds down having won their past four matches, the program’s longest SEC win streak since 2018. Sitting at 9-11 LSU has an opportunity to reach .500 against a Tennessee squad that sits two spots ahead of the Tigers in the SEC standings.
Taylor Bannister has been crucial to LSU’s recent success, being named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week two weeks in a row, aligning with the four wins. With her monstrous performance last weekend against Georgia that included a 30 kill match while hitting .481 on Friday, Bannister is also the reigning SEC Player of the Week. She jumped to the No. 2 spot on LSU’s all-time kills list during Saturday’s match and currently sits at 1,605 career kills. The only Tiger with more kills is Nyla Shepherd who had 1,735 when she played from 1988-91.
Raigen Cianciulli, another all-time great Tiger, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week last week, recording 47 digs over two matches including a season-high 27 during Saturday’s win. During Friday’s match, Cianciulli recorded just her second career double-double with 10 assists to go with 20 digs. With 1,735 career digs, Cianciulli holds the program record in that category.
“We have to be more balanced than maybe we were last weekend,” Flory explained, whose team relied heavily on Bannister’s ability to get kills throughout the two wins against UGA. “We did not get enough productivity out of enough spots last weekend to play a team that is as good of a defensive team as Tennessee is.”
Tennessee’s libero, Madison Bryant, currently leads the SEC with 3.92 digs per set. Cianciulli sits at No. 3 with 3.77 digs per set. Both teams have setters that rank in the top-10 in assists throughout the league as well. LSU’s Karli Rose averages 9.75 assists per set (fifth highest in the SEC) while Tennessee’s Natalie Hayward averages 9.47 (seventh highest in the SEC). Bannister is No. 2 in the SEC with 4.43 kills per set and Tennessee’s Ava Bell has 1.03 blocks per set which is the fourth highest mark in the league.
As a team, Tennessee has limited teams to hitting .206 against them and has blocked the third most balls of any team in the league with 2.40 blocks per set. Both LSU and Tennessee are in the top three in digs per set. Tennessee sits at No. 2 with 15.11 digs per set and the Tigers are just behind them at No. 3 with 14.75 digs per set.
“We just have to keep going and fight the fight until the battle is won,” Flory said.