When LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory looks out at the Tigers’ middle blocker position on Aug. 29 against No. 14 San Diego, she won’t see a familiar face for the first time in four years.
During LSU’s 19-13 campaign last season that included an NCAA tournament run, Flory had two middle blockers on her roster who immediately made the a contender in the Southeastern Conference.
The first was senior Desiree Elliott.
Elliott played four years under Flory, finishing with 1,182 career kills (No. 13 on the LSU all-time list), 375 total blocks and a .260 hitting percentage.
During her LSU career, Elliott earned 21 awards, which included such titles as Louisiana Freshman of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year, All-SEC first eam, All-SEC second team, All-Louisiana first team and All-SEC preseason team, among others.
She was invaluable.
“She was a point-maker. She scored, and she knew the game,” said LSU senior setter Malorie Pardo said. “She had a passion for winning and a fire and a drive in her eyes.”
The second was then-freshman Briana Holman.
Holman exploded onto the scene in 2013, recording 391 kills, a freshman-record 200 total blocks and a team-leading.327 hitting percentage.
The DeSoto, Texas, native raked in her share of awards, including All-SEC freshman team, All-Louisiana first team, Louisiana Freshman of the Year and American Volleyball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American.
She was a spark plug for a squad that looked to recover after an off year in 2012, where the Tigers finished 12-17 and failed to make the postseason. She proved to be a weapon at the net, and she would have received higher honors if Missouri’s Carly Kan hadn’t had an unforgettable season as an outside hitter.
“If Missouri didn’t have the season it had, Holman is the Freshman of the Year in the SEC,” Flory said. “I had just about every coach in the league say that.”
But now heading into the upcoming season, Elliott won’t be there to provide a consistent option and veteran leadership at the middle blocker position.
She has since graduated, leaving behind both her legacy and presence for Flory’s current club to remember.
“She wanted to win so badly,” Pardo said. “We’re going to lose a little bit of that, but I think we have other people to come in to fill those shoes and fill that passion. Knowing how bad she wanted to win helped us know what winning is and what it really does.”
Holman could step into that role in 2014.
At first, being placed on a pedestal “messed with her head,” Holman said. That being said, she assured that she was ready to go for the upcoming season, and she has tried to avoid overthinking about her freshman success.
She said she simply wants to take her play day-by-day, using every opportunity she gets to improve every facet of her game.
Flory said she isn’t expecting any sophomore slump for Holman.
“(Briana’s) experience level was not super high when she came here. She had played club, but she had never really trained a ton,” Flory said.
“The change in Holman and the amount of effort she’s put in to being not a great volleyball player, necessarily, but being a great teammate, means that she’s going to have another special year. I have no doubt about it.”