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Volleyball Heads to Omaha for the Bluejay Invitational

by Keonte Herrera
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Volleyball Heads to Omaha for the Bluejay Invitational

BATON ROUGE, La. – The LSU volleyball team hits the road for the first time this season and will participate in the 2023 Bluejay Invitational Sept. 1-3 at D.J. Sokol Arena in Omaha, Neb.

The Tigers will face Northern Iowa (UNI) at 3:30 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 1, take on tournament host No. 20 Creighton at 5 p.m. CT on Saturday, Sept. 2, and conclude the weekend with a match against Ball State at noon CT Sunday, Sept. 3. FloSports will stream all matches at the Bluejay Invitational for a fee.

LSU is coming off a 1-1 weekend versus UCLA. As a unit, the Tigers rank No. 4 in the SEC with 2.00 aces per set (20 total) and turned in a .253 hitting percentage on 12.20 kills per set and 11.60 assists per set. Defensively, the Tigers averaged 1.90 blocks per set on opening weekend and finished with 10.90 digs per set.

Outside hitter Jurnee Robinson was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading LSU with 4.60 kills per set (46 total) and recorded a .319 hitting percentage. Robinson tallied two 23-kill performances against the Bruins and secured her first collegiate double-double with 10 digs in the weekend’s final match. Robinson currently ranks No. 3 in the SEC and No. 29 in the NCAA with 5.00 points per set.

Outside hitter Sanaa Dotson and right side Jade Demps followed with 2.40 kills and 2.10 kills per set, respectively. Demps and defensive specialist Erin Carmichael lead the team with 2.70 digs per set and four aces. Middle blocker Anita Anwusi ended the weekend with a team-high 1.10 blocks per set and added 19 kills behind a .531 hitting percentage, which ranks No. 3 in the SEC. Setter Maddie Waak sits at No. 9 in the conference with 9.30 assists per set and has four aces.

LSU holds a 4-1 record against this weekend’s field of opponents, including a 2-1 mark against Ball State and 1-0 records against Creighton and UNI.

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Versus Northern Iowa

UNI is coming off a 1-2 weekend at the Western Michigan Tournament. In Kalamazoo, the Panthers swept Milwaukee but fell in five sets to Villanova and four sets to Western Michigan. The Panthers have a .199 attacking percentage with 13.42 kills, 12.83 assists and 1.25 aces per set. They also average 2.08 blocks and 15.00 digs per set while holding opponents to a .184 hitting percentage. UNI is the defending Missouri Valley Conference Champions after posting a 27-8 overall record and was a 2022 NCAA Tournament team.

Outside hitter Kira Fallert leads the team with 3.25 kills per set, and middle blocker Olivia Tjernagel follows with 2.75 kills per set. Tjernagel has a team-high .310 hitting percentage and 1.50 blocks per set. Setter Tayler Alden directs the offense with 8.17 assists per set, and Erin Powers is the team’s libero with 4.75 digs per set.

The loan meeting between LSU and UNI dates back to September 1991 when the Tigers swept the Panthers 3-0 in Evanston, Ill.

Versus No. 20 Creighton

Creighton will be LSU’s first ranked opponent of the 2023 season. After sweeping Loyola Chicago and then No. 16 Purdue, the Bluejays fell to Duke, 3-2, to conclude the Reamer Club Xtra Special Premier in West Lafayette, Ind. The Bluejays rank No. 8 in the NCAA with 15.36 kills per set and 19.00 digs per set. They have a .265 hitting percentage and hand out 13.18 assists per set, ranking No. 2 in the Big East in both categories. Creighton also averages 1.36 aces per set and 1.82 blocks per set to help hold its opponents to a .204 hitting percentage. Creighton had a 27-5 record last season to help them reach its 11th consecutive NCAA Tournament.

Outside hitter Ava Martin is this week’s Big East Offensive Player of the Week after leading the league with 4.45 kills per set (49 total). Martin hit .312 on the weekend and contributed 1.64 digs per set. Outside hitter Norah Sis is behind her with 4.09 kills per set (45 total) and has a team-high five aces. Setter Kendra Wait also has five aces this season and averages 10.45 assists per set (115 total), which ranks second in the Big East.

LSU defeated Creighton, 3-2, in Omaha in August 2008 in their only program meeting.

Versus Ball State

Ball State is also 2-1 entering the tournament with wins over Gonzaga (3-0) and Purdue Fort Wayne (3-0) before dropping a 3-1 decision to Oklahoma at the Ball State Invitational. The Cardinals have a .283 hitting percentage and have landed 13.70 kills per set on 12.90 assists per set. Ball State also averages 1.30 aces per set, 1.90 blocks per set and 15.00 digs per set. Ball State is picked to repeat as the Mid-American Conference (MAC) West Division champions. The Cardinals earned an at-large bid into the 2022 NCAA Tournament and finished that season with a 24-9 overall record.

Middle blocker Marie Plitt has a team-high 29 kills and averages 2.90 kills per set with a .431 hitting percentage, and opposite Madison Buckley follows with 27 total kills (2.70/set) and is hitting .375 from the floor. Setter Megan Wielonski leads the offense with six aces and 10.60 assists per set, and averages 3.00 digs per set.

Although LSU leads the all-time series 2-1, Ball State won the last meeting 3-0 in September 1997. The first two meetings happened in September 1991 and September 1993, where LSU won those matches 3-0 and 3-1, respectively.

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