LAS CRUCES, N.M.-Desiree Elliott found her rhythm during the final two sets and finished with 16 kills to vault the LSU volleyball team to its third straight win and a gritty 3-1 triumph over New Mexico State 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18 Saturday to claim the Hotel Encanto Classic title.
After splitting the first two sets, LSU (6-1) came alive behind 10 Elliott kills on a scorching .600 hitting percentage. The reigning SEC Freshman of the Year also provided a match-high six blocks.
Michele Williams turned in a complete effort with 15 kills, five blocks and three aces. Like Elliott, Williams cranked it up in the last two sets and notched six spikes on a .375 hitting clip.
“I can’t say enough about the effort our kids played with today against a very good New Mexico State team in front of a very hostile environment,” LSU coach Fran Flory said. “Every time we play them, it’s a long and drawn-out battle with lots of long rallies. We showed great heart and great competitive desire for the first time this season.”
Helen Boyle chipped in 11 kills to go along with 13 digs to come away with her second career double-double. Madie Jones also provided eight kills for the Tigers.
Returning to the starting lineup after missing the first two matches of the weekend, Malorie Pardo passed out a match-high 50 assists and added five digs. Pardo fueled the Tigers to 16 critical kills in both sets three and four highlighted by a match-best .308 hitting ratio in the fourth frame.
“Malorie gutted it out where I don’t know many players who would have done what she did today,” Flory said. “Those are the types of efforts that define and create opportunities in a season. The bottom line is that we trust her as coaches, and our offense really feeds off of her.”
LSU’s defense bottled up New Mexico State (4-2) to a season-low .100 hitting percentage. Lauren Waclawczyk and Meghan Mannari reeled in 16 and 15 digs, respectively.
“We learned a lot from our loss to Miami last weekend and worked hard at practice on getting better in all parts of our game,” Elliott said. “New Mexico State is a big, physical team like many of the (Southeastern Conference) teams we face.
“After a slow start, I know all I had to do was listen to my teammates and my coaches to make sure my errors didn’t get me down. It’s nice to start our road schedule with three big wins.”
Down 15-12 in set four, LSU found its bearings behind Sam Delahoussaye’s serve. The Tigers rolled to 10 consecutive points to seize momentum and close out the match. Elliott and Boyle dominated play with three kills each. The duo also combined for a pair of blocks before Jones ripped a cross-court kill to secure the 25-18 win.
“Desiree and Sam’s runs were the defining factor for us in the match,” Flory said. “When you have veterans, you expect them to make those plays. I also thought Helen found her rhythm passing which allowed her to turn it on offensively and defensively. She had some key digs to keep us rallies and accurate digs to put us in transition offense.”