VOLLEYBALL: Lady Tigers outlast Georgia

Strong hitting percentage helps LSU gets back on track after Florida setback

From LSU media relations LSU's offense exploded for a .403 team hitting percentage, its best effort since opening weekend, as the Tigers volleyball team had a quartet of players post double figure kills during a 3-1 triumph over Georgia (25-18, 19-25, 25-16, 25-13) Friday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU (12-6, 5-3) picked up its sixth straight win over the Bulldogs (8-11, 4-5 SEC) as Malorie Pardo produced a match-high 49 assists to go along with nine digs.

"We had to bounce back, our pride was hurt a little bit after the Florida match," coach Fran Flory said. "I credit our players because they worked really hard this week in practice. We know that taking care of our home court conference matches are the keys to success in championship type seasons. Our team takes pride in playing on our home court. Certainly, they did of protecting (Friday)."

Desiree Elliott, Madie Jones, Michele Williams and Nicole Willis each pounded home double figures in kills to combine for 48 of LSU's 59 spikes on the match. All four players connected for over a .300 hitting percentage.

Jones led the way with a match-high 16 kills, turned in four digs and added three blocks. Elliott belted 12 kills on 17 swings with only one error for a match-high .647 ratio. Williams and Willis knocked 10 kills apiece. It marked the first time that Willis reached double digit kills since SEC opening weekend at Alabama back on Sept. 18.

Meghan Mannari fueled the back row with a match-best 17 digs, her 15th time in 17 appearances she has corralled 10 or more digs on the season. Sam Delahoussaye and Helen Boyle reeled in 10 digs each as LSU's back row held a commanding 63-39 digs advantage.

The Tiger defense was major factor and limited Georgia to a minuscule .122 hitting clip. Brittany Northcutt and Kathleen Luft, who entered the match among the SEC's Top 10 in kills per set, were held below their season averages and finished with nine spikes each.

"We were definitely ready to get back on the winning side," Jones said. "We had great week at practice; we were going really hard every day in the gym, regrouping, and coming together as a team. I am really proud of how we played (Friday), and we still have ways to go. It definitely has something to do with how we prepared."

The first set featured 10 ties and five lead changes before LSU ran off 12 of the last 17 points of the set to win going away, 25-18. All square at 13-13, the Tigers heated up with five straight points capped by a Williams kill to make it 18-13. UGA trimmed the deficit down to four points on three occasions, the latest at 20-16, but LSU used a Willis spike to put away the frame. The Tigers recorded a team-high 78 percent sideout efficiency during the opening stanza.

The Bulldogs strung together the first four points to come back during set two. Georgia led wire-to-wire as the Tigers were never to find their rhythm. The Bulldogs made the most of five LSU's serving miscues and converted on 17-of-20 sideouts attempts. A Gates ace allowed UGA to claim a 25-19 win and evened the match at a set apiece heading into the locker room.

LSU came out of the locker room firing on all cylinders and fired out to a quick 12-4 advantage to start the third set. Boyle, Elliott, Jones and Willis slapped two kills each to spark the run. The Bulldogs got back to 17-11, but the Tigers responded with eight of the final 13 points to clinch the 25-16 victory. LSU's offense racked up a match-bests with 16 kills and a .556 hitting percentage during the set.

The Tigers kept up their strong play in the opening parts of the fourth stanza and secured 10 of the first 13 points of the frame. LSU received five kills off of Jones' powerful right arm and ran away with a dominating 25-13 performance. The Tiger defense forced Georgia into a match-high eight hitting mistakes as the final two frames featured only one tie and zero lead changes.

"We have been struggling offensively and were really disappointed in what we were doing," Flory said. "We got back into the gym this week, and decided to work a lot on defense. We left our offense alone this week because I felt we were pushing too hard. They came out and did a fantastic job (Friday) of the offensive side. Our hitters did a great job of not only managing opportunities but creating scoring shots. That's what we preach; it doesn't have to be hard as long as the end result is that the ball hits the floor."

LSU continues its four-match homestand Sunday versus Auburn in a key SEC Western Division contest. First serve is slated for 1 p.m. at the PMAC. The match will be televised live by CST with Lyn Rollins and Garrett Walvoord on the call. The first 500 fans will receive LSU volleyball koozies.

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