KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — LSU’s Desiree Elliott and Michele Williams had 10 kills apiece, but No. 14 Tennessee emerged with a 3-0 volleyball victory (25-19, 25-18, 25-15) on Sunday at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Despite the loss, LSU (18-11, 11-8 SEC) clinched a share of its seventh consecutive Southeastern Conference Western Division title after No. 16 Kentucky picked up a 3-2 victory over Arkansas.
“We’re not happy with the overall result of today’s match but certainly are proud about winning a part of another SEC West championship,” LSU coach Fran Flory said in a university release. “It’s something that our program doesn’t take for granted. Our young team has had to go through a lot of battles this season. It’s a tribute to them for keeping LSU’s championship tradition alive.”
Elliott connected for a .292 hitting percentage and added two blocks. Nicole Willis slapped six kills, and Helen Boyle tacked on five kills to go along with seven digs. Defensively, Meghan Mannari had a team-best 10 digs.
“Desiree was good, but we couldn’t get her the right swings, especially in transition, to open some things up for her,” Flory said. “Nicole had a good offensive effort, and I was happy we were able to create more for her than we were able to Friday night.”
Tennessee (26-3, 18-1) connected for 48 kills and a .436 hitting clip.
Kelsey Robinson had a match-high 16 kills and collected 13 digs, while Tiffany Baker had 11 kills, eight digs and four blocks. Leslie Cikra and DeeDee Harrrison chipped in eight kills apiece.
“Tennessee is a great team and didn’t give us much to work with only committing eight hitting mistakes during a three-set match,” Flory said. “We had to make plays with them, but we made too many unforced errors. Our backcourt defense played as well as they could; I’m really proud of our kids because they gave a tremendous effort.”
The teams tied seven times and exchanged the lead four times early in the opening set. LSU grabbed a 14-13 edge on a Pardo kill. After a UT timeout, the Lady Vols ran off eight of the next 10 points to grab the momentum and build a 21-16 advantage. Baker fueled the spurt with three kills and a block. Tennessee went on to claim a 25-19 victory.
Set two followed the same script as the first. LSU surged ahead 9-8 on a Willis kills before Tennessee answered with a 9-2 run to take a 17-11 lead, capped by one of Robinson’s eight spikes of the frame. Behind 24-16, LSU wiped away two set points. Baker got a sideout spike for the 25-18 win.
UT grabbed a 16-9 advantage to open the third set. Robinson forced LSU to use its final timeout with an ace. The Lady Vols saved their best efforts, a .571 hitting ratio and an 86 percent sideout clip, for set three. Cikra popped back-to-back kills as Tennessee finished the sweep, 25-15.
The victory allowed Lady Vols to secure a share of the SEC Eastern Division and the SEC overall championship.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Robinson is the most outstanding player of the SEC this season,” Flory said. “She had a tremendous summer with the USA A2 National Team and done a fantastic job of carrying the load for them in every capacity. I can’t say enough about the impact she has had on our league, and she has been a big part to them winning at least a share of the SEC championship.”
LSU wraps up the regular season Saturday against Arkansas. First serve is slated for 1:30 p.m. at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Admission is free courtesy of the Advocate’s Geaux Free program.