Volleyball vs. Ole Miss

LSU volleyball senior libero Raigen Cianciulli (5) jumps up and celebrates after she scores a point Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 during LSU's 2-3 loss against Ole Miss in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on N. Stadium Drive in Baton Rouge, La.

After two crushing defeats against Troy and Arkansas, LSU volleyball bounced back at their home opener with a win against Alabama on Saturday night. The Tigers' overall record moved to 5-6, while Alabama sits at 8-6. The teams played in front of a crowd of 1,013 fans in the PMAC for one of the team's best performances of the season.

"We are excited to be on our home court," said Head Coach Fran Flory. "Alabama-LSU matches and honestly Alabama-LSU everything is always a war. We split with them last year at their place, so we [knew we] needed to be prepared."

Though the team had to play full-five sets to overcome their opponent, they statistically outplayed them in almost every aspect. The Tigers kept a .362 hitting percentage to Alabama's .221 and had 69 kills compared to the Tide's 52. Defensively, LSU put up a total of nine blocks while Alabama finished with five.

Unlike their usual method of getting off to a slow start, LSU kicked it into gear fast. They had an impressive start and quickly grabbed the first set, 25-16. The Tigers broke a 16-15 deadlock by claiming nine of the last points. Sanaa Dotson and middle blocker Anita Anwusi can be credited with the set's success, putting up four kills each and a massive .800 hitting percentage. Seniors Taylor Bannister and Kylie Deberg issued three kills apiece.

Despite such an explosive start, LSU proceeded to drop the following two sets. In the second set, 25-22, the team contested with Alabama throughout before failing to grab the last two points to claim the set. In the third, the Crimson Tide took the lead with the help of a pair of kills from outside hitter Shaye Eggleston. The Tigers continued to trail 12-6 before making a comeback after a timeout. However, Alabama's hitting percentage of .500 was too much to come back from, and they closed the set 25-16.

"Alabama is a pin-oriented team, and their pins are veteran players," Flory said. "Their right sides kill a lot of balls, and their left side are good volleyball players. I also think they are better with ball control compared to last year."

The Purple and Gold came back in the fourth frame with a 74% hitting rate, not a single error, and 17 kills from the team. Five early kills came from transfer Deberg, while senior Whitney Foreman recorded a block assist and two kills herself. LSU ended the frame 25-14 to force the Tide into a fifth set.

The final set kicked off with Alabama in the lead due to errors, 5-3. However, outside hitter Dotson kept the Tigers in the game with three early kills. The two teams tied six more times before LSU took four of the last five points of the match, closing it out 15-12.

This victory marks LSU's third straight win in an SEC home opener. The Texas native Dotson led the board by a wide margin, registering a season-high 21 kills and a 58% hitting rate. Outside hitter Deberg followed behind the junior with her third double-double of the season with 14 kills and 13 digs. In addition, 5 foot 4-inch Raigen Cianciulli registered 21 digs total, the most in the match. A pair of outside hitters from Alabama led their team with 11 kills each.

"Hopefully this match can turn the corner," Flory said.

The Tigers will hit the court in Starkville for their matchup against Mississippi State at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct 1. Fans can catch the broadcast of the game on SEC Network+.

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