Tiger Volleyball season ends in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas -- After traveling over 14,000 miles and playing 23 of their 29 matches on the road, the LSU volleyball team closed out it's most successful season since 1992 with a 30-19, 30-28, 30-26 loss to No. 7 Texas in the NCAA Tournament first round on Friday evening in Gregory Gym.

With the loss, the Tigers conclude the season at 21-8 after capturing their first Southeastern Conference Western Division title in school history and earning their first postseason bid in 13 years.

"Texas is a great team and we knew our backs were against the wall from the start with the draw," said LSU head coach Fran Flory. "I still don't understand how they weren't a top 16 seed, but the fact remains that they weren't. We were the unlucky recipient as well because of a seeding situation that was basically geographic."

LSU came out flat in the first game and Texas took advantage of the Tigers' errors to earn a 30-19 win. In the second game, LSU picked up its play, but could not get the tying point it needed in the end to extend the game as Texas earned the two-point win, 30-28. The Longhorns closed out the match in the third game, but not before LSU gave them a run, fighting off a pair of game-points before a kill by Leticia Armstrong won the match, 30-26.

"We felt like we had a great gameplan put together against them," said Flory. "We thought that we could exploit some things but the fact that we didn't play was a factor. We had some injuries late in the season and we did not play on Thanksgiving, so it took us a little while to get in a groove and recover from that."

For the match, LSU out killed Texas, 43-38, but recorded a .111 hitting percentage with 30 errors to a .242 mark with 14 errors for the Longhorns.

"We gave a lot of mental errors away on our side, partially due to not playing recently and having to take days off to recover from some injuries," said Flory.

The Tigers out dug Texas, 40-38, marking the first time all season LSU has lost a match when recording more digs than an opponent. The Tigers were previously 14-0 when out digging opponents. The Longhorns recorded nine blocks and seven service aces to six blocks and two aces for LSU.

Individually, SEC Freshman of the Year Marina Skender led the Tigers with 11 kills, while also tying the match high with 11 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Senior second-team All-SEC selection Jelena Mijatovic also recorded in double-figures with 10 kills for LSU.

Senior first-team All-SEC selection Ivana Kuzmic led the Tigers with four blocks, which moved her into seventh place in single-season blocks in school history. Junior Kassi Mikulik recorded 11 digs to move into the top 10 in single-season digs in LSU history.

For Texas, Dariam Acevedo and Brandy Magee led the way with 12 kills each. Alyson Jennings led the Longhorns with 10 digs, while Lauren Paolini led the match with six blocks. Acevedo also led the match with three service aces.

The Tigers were their own worst enemy in the first game. LSU recorded 12 kills, only three fewer than Texas, but committed 10 errors for a .054 hitting percentage. The Longhorns, however, committed just two errors and hit .500 for the game.

With Texas leading 8-7, the Longhorns went on a five-point run to pull ahead, 13-7. The Tigers pulled to within three, 14-11, but could get no closer. Texas went on to take the first game, 30-19.

In the second game, LSU out killed the Longhorns, 17-13, and posted nearly identical, .186-189, hitting percentages. The game came down to the final points after the Tigers came back from a 28-24 deficit to pull within one, 29-28, but could not send it to extra points. Texas took the two-game advantage, 30-28, on a kill by Magee.

"Unfortunately we weren't able to sustain our gameplan and sustain our play," said Flory. "That is a credit to Texas. We got on a roll and they had an answer for everything we tried to do against them. I think they did a great job of making adjustments in the match and matching up in situations against the weaknesses that we had and they did a great job of exploiting those weaknesses."

In the third game, the Tigers again reverted to committing attacking errors at LSU recorded 11 errors to its 14 kills. After recording only five kills in the previous two games, Mijatovic recorded six kills in game three, but it was not enough.

With the Tigers trailing by four, 24-21, the Longhorns went on a 3-0 run to pull ahead to a six-point advantage, their largest of the game. LSU would not give up and got back to within four, 28-24. Texas sent it to match point on a close miss down the line by Mijatovic. The Tigers then scored back-to-back points to get within three, but a kill by Armstrong closed out the match.

With the season concluded, LSU recorded the most wins since 1993, while boasting the best winning percentage since the 1992 team went 26-9. In addition, the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in school history and the first time since 1992.

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