9.30.18 LSU vs Texas A&M

LSU junior outside hitter Milan Stokes (17) spikes the ball during the Lady Tigers’ 2-3 loss against Texas A&M in the PMAC on Sunday Sept. 30, 2018.

LSU volleyball’s first few conference matches have been less than ideal.

LSU currently holds a 0-5 record in the Southeastern Conference, after losing in five sets to Ole Miss on Oct. 7.

The Tigers started the season by dropping to Georgia, losing in straight sets to South Carolina, trailing to Florida and falling to Texas A&M, and they are in much need of a change.

The Georgia game was a long, tough, five-set match ending in scores of 21-25, 32-34, 25-18, 25-16, 11-15. The second set was where the team started to find their flow. It was a rigorous battle where the entire set was tied up 15 times and had eight lead changes.

“That second set where we literally took them all the way to 32-34, it was a real big game changer,” said junior outside hitter Milan Stokes. “Just that fact that we hung in there so long, and we let kind of all those good emotions generate and flow into the third, fourth and fifth.”

That game-changer caused LSU to win the third and fourth set to tie up the game. Coach Fran Flory said this was due to lineup changes that put people in different positions as a way to give the Tigers more control. However, the fifth set ended in the team’s first conference loss.

Two days later, LSU traveled to Columbia to play South Carolina. South Carolina is arguably the hardest SEC team LSU has played thus far. The Tigers fell in three quick sets with scores of 19-25, 22-25, 19-25. This is where the Tigers had their lowest hitting percentage.

“You need a good kill to error ratio, and that’s what was struggling,” said junior setter Anna Zwiebel.

The team had a 30:21 kill to error ratio against South Carolina, and a 55:23 against Georgia. They came in focused and determined, which became prominent in their win over LSU.

“You could feel South Carolina’s presence as soon as they hit the court,” Stokes said.

Florida was a much anticipated game because it was the SEC home opener. Even so, the Tigers couldn’t keep up and trailed the Gators with scores of 23-25, 21-25, 19-25. Stokes had a career first as the team’s leading outside hitter for this match.

“I prayed, I absolutely relied on faith,” Stokes said. “I’m a little bit undersized for my position, but at the same time in my philosophy, that doesn’t matter. Size doesn’t matter. Your attack and your will power matters.”

Florida was also where Zwiebel put up her second set with more than 30 assists.

“Florida is a very good team,” Zwiebel said. “We played a lot better than we have been. We were connecting, I was connecting with everyone.”

The Tigers put up a fair fight. To this point, the team is performing statistically, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough.

LSU continued SEC play into the weekend by playing Texas A&M. This game ended in a five-set heart breaker with scores of 26-24, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 13-15. Stokes, however, finished with a season-high 13 kills, making it her second match in double-digits. She credits her experience from the Florida game and her faith for this accomplishment.

“I believe through all things Christ Jesus strengthens me,” Stokes said, referring to a verse from Philippians in the Bible. “I think in Texas A&M, at that point we had such a good opportunity to win. We broke through in terms of fight and kind of found that level of intensity we need to handle other people in the SEC.”

Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to pull out the win. These five losses were not how LSU wanted to start its conference schedule. The team is going to have to start improving to take on their next handful of SEC games.

“Good things will happen for this team, it just hasn’t happened yet,” Flory concluded. “We can’t hit the panic button because we have a lot of matches ahead of us. We have a core group that is really, really solid. We just have to play confidently.”

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