AUSTIN, Texas — The LSU volleyball team dropped its season-opening match against the UC Irvine Anteaters in four sets, 25-22, 27-25, 22-25, 25-14, Friday afternoon in Gregory Gym to open the American Campus Classic.
In a match that featured 34 ties and 14 lead changes, LSU (0-1) struggled offensively hitting just .181 in the match to UCI’s (1-0) .292. The Anteaters had with 12 more kills in the match than LSU with 62, finishing with three fewer errors than the Tigers with just 22.
Cati Leak paced the offense, earning her first double-double of the season earning 15 kills and hitting .211 to go along with 11 digs, a service ace and a block. Gina Tillis finished with 11 kills and hit .208 on the day, with Katie Lindelow nearly capturing a double-double of her own with nine kills and eight digs.
Cheyenne Wood served up 23 assists for the Tigers against UCI, earning two of the team’s six service aces, while Lindsay Flory came off the bench to serve up 14.
Senior Emily Ehrle and junior Tiara Gibson had three blocks each as LSU outblocked UC Irvine 8.0-7.0 in the match, as Ehrle had three of LSU’s six service aces on the day, while Gibson finished with six kills and hit .308, the best of any LSU player with at least five kills in the match. Haley Smith led the Tigers with 12 digs, and was the only player other than Leak to earn more than 10 digs in the contest
UCI had three players finish with double-digit kills in the match, led by Victoria Dennis’ 22, while setter Shelley Anderson had 40. Arden Davis led all players with 23 digs while also having two assists.
There were three ties doled out through the first 19 points of the season between the two teams in the opening set, but the lead changed only once and that came during a key run for the Tigers getting three straight points to break an 8-all tie to force a UCI timeout leading 11-8. The Tigers had balance getting six kills from six different players, hitting .455 to UCI’s .273.
However, the Anteaters went on to outscore LSU 12-6 from that point to storm back and force the Tigers into using both of their timeouts quickly and needing to rally. Down 21-17, another three-point rally including two kills by Tillis forced UCI into calling its final timeout. A kill by Ehrle tied it at 21, but UCI scored the next three to get to set point, with LSU getting just one more point after that before UCI closed it out with a kill making it 25-22.
What looked to be a thrilling first set was ramped up double in the second, as the two teams played to a nearly deadlocked score throughout much of the set, to the tune of 19 ties and 8 lead changes. Unfortunately for LSU, the team hit .171 to UCI’s .325, even as they finished with two fewer kills than the Anteaters in the set.
Down by one, a Leak kill tied the set at 22-22, looking to be enough to get LSU to even the match as consecutive UCI attack errors put LSU on the brink of the win, but the other side refused to go out quietly, rallying to score three points of their own to go up 25-24 and force extra points. A service error tied the match at 25, but UCI got the final two points it needed to go up 2-0.
LSU started the third set much better, hitting at a clip of .214, holding the Anteaters to a .105 mark and earning more blocks, three in all, than it had in the first two combined taking a 15-14 lead into the midway break thanks to a Lindelow kill. The Tigers held its lead until a UCI tied it up at 17-17, but LSU turned on the jets and got kills from Gibson, Ehrle, as well as a combo block with Flory to make it 20-17 and force an Anteater timeout.
The Tigers were forced into a timeout after watching UCI claw back to pull within one at 21-20, but not before kills by Mimi Eugene and Leak pushed it back up to three to force the visitors into their final timeout. LSU would call its final in the same situation leading by one at 23-22, but this time the Tigers withstood another rally and got a kill from Lindelow and UCI attack error to take its first set of the day 25-22.
After coming to life in the third, the Tigers were unable to put anything together in the fourth, with the Anteaters scoring 12 of the first 13 points to go up 12-1 and put LSU into a hole early. LSU was able to pull within seven trailing 16-9, but the lead would be too much for the team to overcome in the end, hitting .179 in the frame and dropping the fourth 25-14.
LSU will be back in action on Saturday, taking on the Rice Owls at 10 a.m. in Gregory Gym, before closing out the tournament later that night against Texas at 7:30 p.m.
For all of the latest news and information on Tiger volleyball, visit www.lsusports.net/volleyball. Fans can also follow the program on its social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsuvolleyball along with @lsuvolleyball and @lsucoachfran on Twitter and @lsuvb on Instagram.