Volleyball Opens NCAA Tournament Against Hawai’i
STANFORD, Calif. – The LSU Tigers are set for its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance and will open the tournament with a 6:30 p.m. CT match against No. 8 seed Hawai’i Friday, December 2 at Maples Pavilion.
The match will be streamed on ESPN+ with Jordan Watkins and Ben Ross on the call.
LSU (15-13, 9-9 SEC) is making its first appearance in the Big Dance since 2017 after earning its first winning season since 2019 under first-year head coach and LSU Alumna Tonya Johnson.
On the other side of the bracket is the overall No. 4 seed and weekend host Stanford, who will battle against Pepperdine in the first round at 9 p.m. CT on Friday on The Farm. The first-round winners will meet in the second round at 8 p.m. CT Saturday, December 3.
The Tigers are hitting .221 this season behind 12.78 kills and 11.79 assists per set. LSU holds a 10-1 record when hitting over .250 in a match, including a 7-0 mark when hitting over .300. Defensively, LSU allows its opponents a .204 hitting percentage thanks to 15.57 digs per set. LSU has held teams under a .200 attack percentage 15 times this season and averages 2.08 blocks per set.
Outside hitter Sanaa Dotson leads the Tigers with 3.67 kills per set (411 total) and 25 aces this season. Dotson is followed by counterpart Paige Flickinger who averages 2.70 kills per set, 20 aces and 2.60 digs per set. Flickinger has a team-high nine double-doubles this season, including three in the last four matches of the regular season.
Libero Ella Larkin lead the SEC with 494 total digs and 4.41 digs per set, ranking No. 62 and 76 in the NCAA, respectively. Larkin is four digs shy of breaking into the top 10 of the program’s record book for the most digs in a single season (Raigen Cianciulli No. 10 at 498 total digs) and has accumulated four 30-plus dig performances this season.
Setter Josie Vondran directs the offense with 6.59 assists per set and has contributed 101 kills, 57 blocks and 13 aces. Freshman setter Maddie Waak has registered 4.38 assists per set to go along with 18 aces and has three double-double this season. Middle blocker Anita Anwusi leads the team with 1.13 blocks per set (126 total) and has collected 206 total kills on the year.
Hawai’i has been crowned Big West Conference (BWC) champions three consecutive years after concluding this season with a 22-6 record and 19-1 league mark. Hawai’i enters the tournament on a 12-match winning streak. As a unit, the Rainbow Wahine’s rank inside the top 30 of the country in hitting percentage (.267 – No. 26) and kills per set (13.85 – No. 29). Defensively, Hawai’i holds its opponents to a .200 hitting percentage and averages 14.16 digs and 2.06 blocks per set.
The Rainbow Wahine’s are led by Baton Rouge native and Big West Player of the Year Amber Igiede who ranks fourth in the nation with a .439 hitting percentage. The middle blocker also leads the team with 3.79 kills per set (390 total), 1.30 blocks per set (134 total) and adds 29 aces on the year. Igiede’s 4.90 points per set ranks No. 19 in the NCAA. Other key players for Hawai’i consist of the Big West Conference Setter of the Year Kate Lang, Freshman of the Year outside hitter Caylen Alexander, and outside hitter Riley Wagoner who was tabbed All-Big West First Team.
Pepperdine finished the regular season 19-10 including a 10-8 record in the West Coast Conference (WCC). The Waves average 13.43 kills per set and have a .229 hitting percentage. They led the WCC with 14.50 digs per set and kept opponents to a .187 clip thanks to 2.36 blocks per set.
The Waves are led by freshman outside hitter Emily Hellmuth who is the WCC Freshman of the Year. Hellmuth averages 2.90 kills and is followed by outside hitter Grace Chillingworth’s 2.89 kills per set and team-high 40 aces. Chillingworth along with middle blocker Meg Brown earned first-team all-conference. Libero Riley Patterson and setter Isabel Zelaya were named honorable mention and middle blocker Vanessa Polk joined Hellmuth on the WCC All-Freshman Team.
Stanford claimed the Pac-12 title for the first time since 2019 after concluding the regular season with a 24-4 overall record and 19-1 record in league matches. The Cardinal rides an 18-match winning streak into the tournament and ranks No. 6 in the NCAA with 14.55 kills and 13.56 assists per set, No. 7 with a .292 hitting percentage and No. 8 with 2.72 blocks per set.
Opposite hitter Kendall Kipp is the Pac-12 Player of the Year after registering 4.31 kills per set (No. 20 in NCAA) behind a .301 hitting percentage and 42 aces to lead the team. Stanford also has the Pac-12 Setter of the Year Kami Miner who ranks No. 8 in the nation with 11.25 assists per set, and the Pac-12 Libero of the Year Elena Oglivie who averages 4.35 digs per set (444 total). Outside hitters Caitie Baird and Elia Rubin were also listed on the all-conference team and middle blocker McKenna Vicini was listed honorable mention.
LSU is seeking its first NCAA Tournament win since 2014. The Tigers have never played Hawai’i, Pepperdine or Stanford in the NCAA Tournament but are 0-8 all-time against this group of clubs (0-3 vs. Hawai’i, 0-2 vs. Pepperdine, 0-3 vs. Stanford).
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