ATHENS, Ga. -- Behind two sets to one, the LSU volleyball team stormed back behind the record performance of sophomore outside hitter Gina Tillis and her 37 kills and 19 digs as the Tigers defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 25-21, 19-25, 23-25, 25-18, 15-9 Friday night inside the Ramsey Center.
LSU (6-8, 2-1 Southeastern) pushed its winning streak to two matches as the Tigers took the first, before seeing the Bulldogs come back to take the next two and putting the team on the brink. Instead, Tillis provided the second best kill output in program history, and the most in the rally scoring era as she hit .453 with a career-best 19 digs, two blocks and a service ace.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge to play here, but we put everything we had into the match on the court and we're happy we came out with the win," Tillis said. "My teammates set me up to have a night like this and credit goes to all of them for not giving up and battling back like we did."
Tillis accounted for over half of LSU's 67 kills on the night and was the only player in double figures earning a double-double, as the Tigers hit .234 with 10 blocks and five service aces. The Tigers also corralled 81 digs with four players earning double-digits, including having three with more than 15.
Setter Cheyenne Wood produced 30 assists in the victory, earning a double-double with 13 digs, with Lindsay Flory having 17. Senior defensive specialist Haley Smith led all players with 24 digs, as Tillis was second with 19 and Cati Leak having 17.
Tiara Gibson came off the bench to lead the team with five blocks to tie for the match lead, including having one of the two solo blocks along with Emily Ehrle.
Amanda Dachs led Georgia with 15 kills and added 17 digs for the double-double, while Kendall Kazor had 42 assists to lead the match. Cassidy Anderson had 21 digs for the Bulldogs, as Kazor and Jasmine Eatmon had five blocks each.
The Tigers rallied in a big way to close the first, shaking off a sluggish start that allowed the home crowd to come alive early. LSU finished the set hitting a hit .270 as a group after the first frame led by Tillis and her seven kills, corralling 19 digs and earning three blocks as a squad with only three attack errors.
Down by as many as six, the Tigers forged their comeback by hacking at the Bulldog lead by grabbing points in chunks, beginning after the media timeout down 15-9. The Tigers earned seven of the next eight points to tie the set at 16-16, with a Georgia attack error giving LSU its first lead up 17-16.
There would be three more lead changes from that point on as each side would call timeouts, leading to Georgia calling its final timeout down 21-19 after a kill from Wood. The Bulldogs would only score two more points after that as LSU went on to take the set opener 25-21. In all LSU, outscored the Bulldogs 16-6 from the media timeout on.
Unfortunately, the second set was anything but clean for the Tigers as the squad finished the second hitting in the negatives with only nine kills after having double figures in the set previously. Georgia also finished with nine, but hit into only three errors as a group, four less than in the first set, hitting .214.
The set was much more competitive early, featuring seven ties within the first 18 points. LSU capitalized, breaking a 9-all tie by scoring three-straight, eventually going into the media timeout leading the Bulldogs 15-13. However, LSU would take its last lead of the set going up 16-14 after a service error from the other side, as the Bulldogs would go on a 8-0 run to take a 22-16 lead and hold on to even the match winning 25-19.
The stats alone in the third set was all LSU, as the Tigers finished with 15 kills, their highest total of the night up to that point, hitting .265 to Georgia's .139. Unfortunately, LSU would find themselves down 2-1 by the end as the squad could never seem to get over the hump late after giving up the lead midway through the set.
Seven ties were battled through by both sides in the first 22 points of the third, included in those draws were four lead changes. LSU took its last lead after a Tillis kill to go up 10-9, as a two-point swing by the Bulldogs gave Georgia the lead up 11-10. A kill by Olivia Beyer tied the set at 11-all, as another short, two-point burst by the Bulldogs put the home side up 13-11.
From there, Georgia would never relinquish the lead, even as the Tigers threatened at multiple points throughout the frame. The Bulldogs led by as many as four up 20-16, but a run by LSU cut that lead to just one as the Tigers were starting to find its rhythm. At 23-21, a kill from Tillis pulled LSU within one again, as a kill for Georgia put them at set point. A Leak kill staved off the point for the Bulldogs to come within one again, but Georgia was able to earn it on the next point to take a 2-1 lead at 25-23.
Instead of the tense previous two sets, LSU wasted little time putting that notion to bed to open the fourth, realizing they were on the brink by leading by as many as eight points going up 15-7. The closest Georgia would get to the Tigers was four points, as LSU went on to send the match to a deciding fifth, winning the fourth 25-18 after hitting an astonishing .324 in the frame with 14 kills.
With the match tied at six in the fifth, Tillis came through with a kill to make it 7-6, as a UGA attack error gave LSU the 8-6 advantage as the two teams switched sides of the court. The sophomore came through again after a Georgia point with another kill to put the Tigers up two at 9-7. She added two more of her nine in the set on consecutive plays to go up 10-7, with another unforce UGA error to make it 11-7. The Bulldogs would only get two more points after that as LSU pulled off the thriller winning 15-9 to close the match.
LSU will be back in action on Sunday afternoon, traveling to take on the Auburn Tigers at 5 p.m. inside Auburn Arena. The match will be televised live on the SEC Network with Cara Capuano and Jenny Hazelwood.