She wasn’t on the front lines, but veteran LSU volleyball coach Fran Flory has done her part by getting involved in a project that will certainly help COVID-19 health-care workers.

Inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, where LSU plays volleyball, the school has been producing personal protective equipment (PPE). Flory, who is also making masks at home and donating them, took a recent all-day shift in the Assembly Center.

“Our task as coaches who have gone in there has been to attach the sleeves of the gowns. You’d think it would be really easy, but it’s a slow, arduous process. I’m not very good at assembly-line work is what I can tell you.”

LSU Medical Physics Program Director Wayne Newhause came up with the idea, started it in his garage, and eventually LSU and the state gave its support. And so did local businesses. The national billboard company Lamar, which is located in Baton Rouge, donated vinyl for the gowns, and the firm Baker Hughes donated materials for the face shields.

Flory said the day she was in the PMAC they churned out 1,200 gowns.

“And they think they can get up to 1,800. They’re shipping them all over the country and they said potentially all over the world. Really, a great contribution. Total protection, it’s washable, they can disinfect them and re-use them. 

Just another reason Flory, like almost all other college coaches, will tell you they seem busier in this time of coronavirus than before.

“We’ve joined the Zoom generation. We’ve learned to navigate Zoom and our kids enjoy it and we meet once a week,” Flory said, noting that the Tigers won’t virtually gather this week because it’s a dead period before final exams.

“But we’ve been doing a lot of teaching and we’ve been doing a lot of leadership. You know, coaches complain all the time that the mentality of their team is not good: ‘I can’t get my kid’s mentality right.’ Well, why not seize the opportunity and address mentality? 

“We been doing a ton of leadership stuff. We had planned that for the spring with a curriculum written and were doing weekly lessons in the classroom with them. So for some ungodly reason we were ready for this. So we’ve just continued our lessons and enhanced them and it’s been great engagement for us.”

LSU coach Fran Flory making masks/LSU Volleyball Twitter

Flory is the second-longest tenured coach in the Southeastern Conference behind Florida’s Mary Wise. For that matter, she and Ray Bechard of Kansas rank behind only Penn State’s Russ Rose, North Carolina’s Joe Sagula, Utah’s Beth Launiere, and Arizona’s Dave Rubio among Power-Five coaches who have been at their current jobs the longest.

LSU finished 15-13 last year, 9-9 in the SEC, and has every reason to think it’s in position to improve whenever it plays again. Had the coronavirus not shut everything down, Flory’s program was going to get a big boost in the form of LSU beach star Kristen Nuss. Nuss, a product of New Orleans, was a fantastic indoors player in high school and the New Orleanian was pretty sure she was going to play for Flory this fall. But with all that happened this spring and LSU being ranked No.1 when the season was called off, Nuss will not play indoors and will return for another beach season.

“Yeah, when she got her extra year and found out that LSU was going to fund them scholarship-wise at the same level they had been funded, she called me and was heartbroken and devastated,” Flory said. “She felt terrible about going back on her word.”

But Flory totally knew that Nuss, who has a strong future as a pro player, had to stay with the beach team. “You’re trying to win a national championship,” Flory told her. “Go win the national championship.”

Not that the LSU indoors cupboard is bare without her. 

“This team’s gonna have fun and they should challenge for a championship, I think. They have the mentality,” Flory said. “We’ll see.”

A young team that took its lumps at times features a key senior in 6-foot-5 honorable-mention All-American right side Taylor Bannister, who would have gotten national-team-gym experience this summer, and another senior in libero Raigen Cianciulli.

Super-athletic setter Karli Rose, just 5-7, should be excited about starting her sophomore season with the emergence of 6-3 Anita Anwusi. The sophomore is a high-jumping, raw but powerful middle who has the capability of being a big-time player. LSU also adds highly touted incoming freshman outside Paige Flickinger.

The other middle will be either 6-4 sophomore Allee Morris or Whitney Foreman, who may move outside, while the outsides will include sophomore Samarah Hill, who was second on the team in digs in 2019 and second to Bannister in kills.

“We had a great start to our spring,” Flory said. “We got to play one date, which was the weekend before all this broke, and played well.

“We’re super excited about who we have returning, the depth at every position, the experience we have at every position.”

Whenever the season occurs, Flory again will be rooting afar for her daughter, Lindsay, the former LSU setter who has re-signed for a second pro season in Germany. 

Talk about family bonding during quarantine, Fran and husband Ken turned their garage into a gym so Lindsay can work out in preparation, and she trains with with her brother Nick, an LSU student.

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