Volleyball has a grip on U-High’s Lindsay Flory

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- University High volleyball player Lindsay Flory, left, with her mother, LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory, right, after  the Advocate's Star of Stars awards ceremony in May.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- University High volleyball player Lindsay Flory, left, with her mother, LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory, right, after the Advocate's Star of Stars awards ceremony in May.

When you’re the child of a coach, everyone assumes you want to be an athlete and excel in the sport your parent coaches.

The ties that bind University High’s Lindsay Flory to volleyball actually run deeper than that.

“My Mom went into labor with me when she was coaching at Kentucky,” Flory explains. “And I went to my first volleyball game a week later. So I’ve really always been around volleyball.”

Arguing whether Flory, the daughter of LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory, is gifted by nature or nurture is a moot point. The 5-foot-11 junior-to-be is one of the area’s most talented players.

As a sophomore, Flory was voted the MVP of the All-Metro team for players in Divisions III-V. She helped lead the Cubs to the Division IV semifinals with 368 assists, 287 kills, 191 digs and 96 service aces.

“I like her setting skills,” University coach Bonita Johnson said. “She can be a threat there as an outside hitter, too. You can basically put her in any position on the court and she’ll perform.

“On top of that, Lindsay’s just a great kid. Every time you see her, there’s a big smile. She’s had that since she was a little noodle here in elementary school. Now she’s learning to be a leader on the court, which is a big step to make.”

Born to play

Fran Flory, then the head coach at Kentucky, knew she was in labor with her first child as a contest with rival Louisville began. The Wildcats won the first two sets, and the former Episcopal and the University of Texas star figured she would be en route to the hospital soon.

But Louisville rallied to win the next three sets to claim the victory. Fran Flory quickly retreated to her office to call the hospital.

“My athletic director came in and said ‘You’d better be in labor after that,’” Flory recalls. “Of course, I was, and she apologized.”

A week later, Fran Flory and her husband, Ken, packed up Lindsay for a road game at Tennessee.

Despite those beginnings, Flory said she never was forced to play volleyball.

“When I was about 8 or 9 and started playing up to the 10-year-olds,” Flory said. “That’s when I figured I was pretty good. I also played softball, basketball and soccer, and did other things.

“My Mom kept telling me if I didn’t want to play volleyball, it was fine. And every time she said that, I told her I wanted to play volleyball.”

One notable departure from that volleyball destiny happened a couple of years earlier.

“The most vivid memory I have as a kid was when LSU was playing Kentucky and it was my birthday,” Flory recalled. “LSU always play Kentucky on my birthday, it’s how the schedule falls.

“At the time, I was into cheerleading. I was having my birthday party at the game. The cheerleaders came up to me and gave me a present, and I opened it, and it was a little LSU cheerleading outfit. I was so excited. I was probably 6.”

An evolving game

Soon, Flory started spending more time watching the players more than the cheerleaders.

“Because I’ve watched the sport since I was little, I have a real understanding of it,” Flory said. “A lot of people don’t get to do what I’ve done. I’ve been at (LSU) practices and games and traveled with team. That’s why I know the court and where the ball is going.”

Fran Flory agrees.

“Lindsay is better than I was a player in high school,” Fran Flory said. “The move to setter a couple of years ago was something I wanted her to do. She’s a natural and has such a feel for the game.

“My husband also played volleyball growing up in Ohio. And her arm swing is more like his. Both of us were late bloomers physically. Lindsay is that way too, which is why I think her best volleyball is still ahead of her.”

During the summer, Flory got the chance to hone her setting skills for the Volleyball Baton Rouge 16-year-old team that featured players from St. Joseph’s Academy and Baton Rouge High. The team finished 27th out of 140 teams at the AAU national tourney in Orlando.

“I’ve been playing nonstop all summer,” Flory said. “I’m getting back into the gym to work on some things now. I’ve worked some on my blocking. Now is the time for us (University team) to come together for our season.”

Colleges, championships

Flory said she sat down with her mother a couple of years ago, and the two agreed she should look at out-of-state schools.

“I wouldn’t want people to think the only reason I’m on the team is that my mom is the coach,” Flory said. “I wouldn’t want that for her or me.”

So Flory said she has already started writing to colleges. She carries a 3.75 grade point average, but has yet to decide on a college major.

“That’s something we’re letting her make decisions on,” Fran Flory noted. “I went away to college, and I won’t have a problem with Lindsay doing that. She’s asked us several times what she should do or major in. Those are things she needs to figure out for herself.”

Pursuit of a Division IV state title for University High is one thing Flory is passionate about. The Cubs have been a finalist before, but have never claimed the crown.

“U-High is never won a state title, and that’s our goal,” Flory said. “I think we can go out there and have a great time. And go for it (title).”

All the while, Flory said she’ll remember one key thing her mother has taught her.

“The most important thing my mom taught me about volleyball is that when you’re on the court, it’s always a team sport,” Flory said. “You should never focus on yourself and what you’re doing. It’s all about the team.”