LEXINGTON, Ky. - The LSU volleyball team begins its final road trip of the regular season against No. 16 Kentucky on Friday at Memorial Coliseum at 6 p.m.
LSU (18-9, 11-6 Southeastern Conference) has won four of its last five outings and enters Friday’s contest one match ahead of Arkansas in the SEC Western Division race.
The Wildcats (24-4, 15-2 SEC) are in sole possession of second place of the SEC East, one-match behind league-leader and No. 14 Tennessee.
Earlier this season, UK swept the Tigers as Christine Hartmann had 41 assists and set the Wildcats to a .385 hitting percentage. Lauren O’Connor had 13 kills on a .545 ratio. Becky Pavan and Whitney Billings chipped in a combined 14 kills and six blocks apiece.
The Wildcats also limited LSU to a .165 hitting clip. Stephanie Klefot, the SEC’s leader in digs per set, had 13.
“What a great position to be in playing Kentucky and Tennessee towards the end of the season as they try to protect their chance to be the SEC champion,” LSU coach Fran Flory said.
“We know that we need to go in and take care of our business. There’s no doubt that we’ll have to play at a high level to have a chance at the end to make a couple of plays that may make the difference in the match.”
Those two teams are expected to go far in postseason. If we play at the level we are capable of playing at, we will have a chance to do something special this weekend.”
LSU is coming off a 3-2 win over South Carolina as the Tigers erased a two-set deficit for the second time on the season. Madie Jones and Meghan Mannari turned in career performances. Jones powered home a career-best 23 kills, while Mannari reeled in a career-high 39 digs.
For her efforts, Mannari secured her third SEC Defensive Player of the Week award. The 39 scoops were the most by a SEC player this season and the second-most in program history for a single match only behind former All-American Elena Martinez’s 43 digs at Alabama during the 2007 season.
Mannari has racked up 4.69 digs per set, second-highest in the SEC. She has upped her average to a SEC-leading 4.94 per set ratio during league matches. The Frisco, Texas, native has eclipsed the 20-dig plateau nine times this season.
“Meghan has developed into an excellent libero for us and continues to grow as the season has progressed,” Flory said. “We recently have created some more opportunities for her within our defensive system and have tried to match her up within certain elements of the game plan. Her passing also has been a stabilizing force for us.”
Jones has powered home 10 or more kills during eight of her last 10 outings, while her 3.54 kills per set rank sixth among the SEC leaders. She has belted 20-plus spikes on four occasions and elevated her average to 3.81 kills per set to check in the league’s No. 4 spot during SEC action.
Helen Boyle has found her offensive rhythm and ripped double digit kills in three of her last four outings.
She also has tallied 2.92 digs per set, second-highest on the team. The Eureka, Mo., native has corralled 10 or more digs in 12 of her 17 SEC matches.
Desiree Elliott and Michele Williams have picked up their blocking as of late. The middle blocker duo has combined for 46 stuffs during LSU’s four November matches. For the season, Elliott’s 0.97 and Williams’ 0.95 per set clip is just outside the SEC’s Top 10.
Offensively, Elliott has connected for 10 or more kills in 10 straight matches. She has blasted 3.49 kills per set, seventh overall and tops among middles, in the SEC rankings. Williams heads into the UK match two kills away from passing Meagan Davis (1998-2001) for 16th place on the program’s all-time list.
Malorie Pardo’s 11.73 assists per set are second in the SEC and 10th nationally. She has distributed 40 or more helpers in nine of her last 11 outings. The League City, Texas, native has collected a team-high 11 double-doubles, most recently a 56-assist and 12-dig effort last time out versus South Carolina.
Live audio and live stats for the Kentucky match are offered inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net, while in-match updates also are available via the program’s social media outlets at LSU Volleyball on Facebook or http://twitter.com/lsuvolleyball.