Flory frustrated looking back at Florida loss

Coach Fran Flory perused the stat sheet a few minutes after her team finished the most significant late-season volleyball match LSU had played in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center since the early 1990s.

She shook her head, because the stats didn't support what the end result showed, that seventh-ranked Florida defeated No. 11 LSU three games to one, 31-29, 30-24, 27-30, 30-24, this past Friday night.


No, Flory saw what could have been.


"We had more kills than them, we had more digs than them, we had more blocks than them," Flory said after her team lost for the second time this season to the Southeastern Conference's benchmark program. "But we had almost 20 more errors than them."

In a sport that hinges on the smallest of mood swings and the narrowest windows of opportunity, LSU came up short.


"Everything we wanted to do worked against them," Flory said. "We just didn't execute. That's the bottom line."


It started in the first game before an enthusiastic crowd of 1,684, more of whom were on hand to watch a top-notch volleyball match than to stick around after for a free concert by rising-star Baton Rouge band The Benjy Davis Project.


LSU bolted to a 20-13 lead in the first game but the Gators, who don't appear to get rattled when behind, battled to a 29-29 tie.


But when Florida sent a free ball over the net, which normally results in a kill for LSU, the Tigers didn't capitalize, sending it back with no authority. Florida, which improved to 21-2, 14-1 in the SEC, took advantage and closed it out.


"That was huge," senior setter Daniela Romero said with a wince. "It's hard when you get a free ball and you know you have to convert and the chance passed us by."


LSU (21-4 after beating Auburn two days later in five games, 13-2 atop the SEC Western Division), was obviously deflated and it showed in the next game as Florida won easily.

The Tigers, facing a second three-game sweep to Florida, bowed up behind Marina Skender. The sophomore from Croatia recorded seven of her match-high 23 kills in that game as LSU sent it to a fourth. LSU, leading 27-26, got a huge block from senior middle blocker Melody Clark on Florida's Amber McCray, a lefty right-side who led the Gators with 19 kills, seven before that in the third game.


"The third game is how we usually play," Skender said. "It wasn't just me, but the team as a whole. We hadn't played our game, but did in the third game."


LSU closed out the win with a blast down the line by Skender.


"We regained our composure, but as the match wore on, we were not mentally tough enough," Flory said.


That was evident when Florida rolled to victory in the fourth game. It seemed that everything LSU hit, Florida dug. In the fourth game, Florida freshman Elyse Cusack came up with 10 of her match-high 46 digs.


"They frustrated the heck out of our offense," Flory admitted.


"We didn't do a very good job of staying true to the things that we do. We tried to do a little too much, pushed a little too hard, and that leads to errors."


LSU had plenty of them.


Skender's effort was offset by 16 hitting errors in her 74 swings, finishing with a .095 hitting percentage. As a comparison, Kisya Killingsworth led Florida in attempts with 53, recording 13 kills and 10 errors (.057).


Sophomore Kyna Washington added 20 kills for LSU and junior Vanessa Freeman added 10. Freshman Lauren DeGirolamo added seven kills and a match-high six block assists to go with one solo block. Romero had 57 assists and five Tigers had 13 or more digs, led by senior libero Kassi Mikulik's 28. Overall, LSU had 45 attack errors and hit just .097, while Florida hit .138, stats neither coach was pleased with.


"The hitting percentages in this match were horrible," Flory said. "That's because both setters ran their offenses from behind the attack line because (of bad passes). So it wasn't very good."


What was good for the Tigers was escaping Auburn two days later, 30-24, 28-30, 22-30, 30-17, 16-14.


"It's really tough to come back," Flory said. "You prepare and no matter how much we try to keep them focused on the big picture and not just the Florida match, all athletes point to the big one and to rebound from that with a win against a very solid team today makes me very proud."

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