Volleyball enters conference play, sights kept high
A preseason Sun Belt Conference ranking of sixth for the Ragin’ Cajun volleyball team did nothing to deter against the mission at hand for the new season.
“We are going for the Sun Belt championship,” said head coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot. “It doesn’t matter what people think of us. We know what we think of us, and we are strong team.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns (12-3, 2-3 SBC) started out strong indeed, blowing the doors off the new season to the tune of a 10-0 record, including wins versus Fresno State University and Rice University.
“It’s an awesome feeling to start 10-0,” said senior setter Andrea Hole. “It’s just great. We have a lot of confidence. The team chemistry is so good, and coming into practice is fun; everything is fun.”
After a season that saw the team win 19 games, which accounted for the most wins in the program since 1997, and the return of nine letterwinners from last year’s squad, the team expectations were higher heading into the 2014 season.
Following the 10 straight wins, the Cajuns entered conference play and dropped three matches in a row to the University of South Alabama, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the University of Texas at Arlington.
“There were a lot of nerves,” said Hole. “It was the beginning of conference. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves that we didn’t need to have. Now, we have our confidence back.”
In a two-match home stand last weekend, the (at the time) undefeated Cajun team showed up and defeated the Appalachian State Mountaineers, a team that was 13-0 at the time, and on the precipice of being a top 25 team in the nation.
In the match Saturday night, the Cajuns met with the Georgia Southern Eagles, a team that was riding high after earning their first victory the night before versus the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and a newcomer to the Sun Belt. The Cajuns won the first set 29-27 before falling 20-12 in the second set.
The Cajuns turned to their bench, and Kae Kae Lockhart delivered with a resounding kill that galvanized the team and ignited a 13-3 run that served as the catalyst for the 26-24 set win. The second-set victory for the Cajuns took most of the fight out of the Eagles, as UL Lafayette was able to dispose of Georgia Southern 25-16 in the final set to complete the sweep in three sets.
“I saw fight and determination,” said Mazeitis-Fontenot. “Kae Kae Lockhart came in and ignited everything. Kelly Wiesmann came in and did the same thing. We have a great bench with a lot of depth. They reignited us.”
The team enters their grueling conference schedule, but the expectations have not changed, according to Hole.
“It’s just about having fun,” she said. “When we have fun, no one can keep up with us. When we play our game and keep our tempo, teams struggle against us.”
The team returns to action Thursday at 7 p.m., when they host the Georgia State Panthers.