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Volleyball: UL volleyball’s streak halted by South Alabama

Chad Washington, The Advertiser, September 17, 2014



Sara Mossakowski had six kills and 11 digs in the Cajuns’ five-set loss to South Alabama at E.K. Long Gym on Wednesday. (Photo: Jessica Tobias/Special to the Advertiser)



Coming in to Wednesday’s match against South Alabama, the UL volleyball team seemed like it was riding on a wave of confidence.

But with a team with seven freshmen and with some players battling a virus, the Ragin’ Cajuns were left vulnerable, and their undefeated run became a memory.

Despite a tough five-set loss to the Jaguars that ended the Cajuns’ 10-game winning streak, there is a lot of positive energy coming from the UL players and coaches moving forward as they refocus on the main goal: winning the Sun Belt Conference title.

"As much as we don’t want to talk about being 10-0, they knew it," UL head coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "Everybody was talking to them about it. So it was like, OK, here we are in front of our home crowd, we got to put it on the line and we played super tight. And that’s really the bottom line."

UL was on its hottest start to the season in the program’s history since the 1990 season, when the Cajuns went 13-0. And it’s been done by a hodgepodge of returning starters like senior setter Andrea Hole and senior libero Caitlyn Auxilien, along with true freshmen outside hitter Stacey Reilly and sophomore middle blocker Chanelle Gardner.

The mix of youth and experience has been a strong one for UL so far, on and off the court.

"It’s definitely our team chemistry. We hang out together and do everything together," Mossakowski said, who had 12 kills and 11 digs in the match. "We know what we’re going to do and we expect a lot out of each other. And so I think the trust factor is what helps us win games."

In the SBC opener at Earl K. Long Gymnasium, Mossakowski blasted six kills in the first set, but the Jaguars were able to get the 25-23 win. UL then won the second set 25-17, as Hole and Gardner each had 2 kills and a block in the set.

South Alabama (6-5, 1-0 SBC) then went to its 6-foot-3 sophomore outside hitter, Mechell Daniel to regain control of the match. Daniel had six kills and a block in the third set as the Jags won, 25-14.

"It was the first conference match and we had a lot of jitters, and I think that’s what got to us," Mossakowski said. "We kind of stressed out about it."

UL then jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set as freshman setter Keely Hayes got back-to-back aces. Nemeth came in not at 100 percent in the match, but she got four of her nine kills to lead the Cajuns to a 25-17 win to force a fifth set.

USA took a 13-9 lead in the fifth set, but the Cajuns fought off four match points to tie it at 14. The Jags got two kills on two contested rallies to take the set 16-14 and take the match.

Gardner led UL (10-1, 0-1) with 13 kills and five blocks. Reilly had 12 blocks and 14 digs, while Nemeth added nine kills. Hole had 47 assists, 10 digs and four blocks.

"(Andrea) is our leader on and off the floor," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "I haven’t had to say much to her, she knows what her role is and understands that she is me out there on the floor and does a great job."

Four players finish in double-figures for USA led by Jessica Lewis’ 17 kills. Daniel recorded her fourth double-double of the season with 14 kills and 13 digs. South Alabama has now won four of its last five Sun Belt openers.

"Just because we lose doesn’t mean we did anything wrong. Just because we win doesn’t mean we did everything right," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "Two points makes a difference between us being 11-0 and 10-1. Two points, that’s what we’re really talking about.

The Cajuns will now head on the road to face two tough SBC opponents on the road, at UALR on Friday and UT Arlington on Sunday. UL is hoping that the end of their 10-match winning streak doesn’t result in a three-match losing streak.

"We just have to have a quick bounce back, that’s what we have to do," Nemeth said.