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Volleyball: Defense Seals the Deal as Louisiana Extends Win Streak
Put away Little Rock with formidable front-line presence over final two sets
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LAFAYETTE – With a heavy-duty defensive stand at the net over the final two sets Louisiana Volleyball turned away Little Rock to collect a 3-1 (23-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-15) win on Saturday at Earl K. Long Gym, stretching the team's winning streak to four matches and preserving the first-place standing in the Sun Belt West Division.
The Ragin' Cajuns (10-4, 5-1 Sun Belt) backed the Trojans (11-8, 2-5 Sun Belt) into a corner by throwing up 11 blocks combined over the final two set wins that clinched the triumph. Louisiana had seven blocks alone in the fourth set, with six of those coming as the squad broke free from a 10-all deadlock.
A balanced offense was the other key to the Ragin' Cajuns victory as five different players reached double figures in kills. A rising hitting percentage as the match progressed, hitting .263, .317, and .333 in succession after a first-set defeat, flipped the script.
Back-and-forth play dominated the flow of the contest as the teams battled through 28 ties and 15 lead changes. Louisiana outlasted Little Rock in the fourth set after there were eight ties and five lead changes through 10-10.
The Trojans struck first after a pair of Ragin' Cajuns miscues provided a 23-21 lead which was just enough separation in the opening set. Louisiana returned the favor in the second set when a pair of Little Rock miscues (service error, attack error) resulted in the frame going to extra points where kills from Cami Hicks and Emery Judkins ended the extended play abruptly.
It was Hicks and Chinelo Ogogor who combined for three consecutive kills to increase the lead to 10-5 as Louisiana quickly established control in the race for the match lead. The advantage reached double digits at 19-9 following a Coco Gillett kill and block that involved her and Kara Barnes.
Louisiana fought off another Little Rock rally before securing the match lead as the visitors trimmed the lead to 22-20. Kelsey Bennett came through with a kill for a side out that stopped the Trojans' advance.
The Ragin' Cajuns breakthrough in the fourth set started with a block solo from Judkins snapped the 10-10 tie. Later it was Judkins using a kill to spark the 8-0 run that stretched out a 16-14 lead.
Back-to-back blocks involving Barnes brought Louisiana to 20 points and then the final outcome was cemented after back-to-back kills from Gillett and Ogogor, a Reka Kotorman ace and a combo block from Barnes and Ogogor made it 24-14.
LEADING THE RAGIN' CAJUNS
Gillett led the group of five that reached double figures in kills by tallying 11 of her own – the ninth straight match she's landed double figures. Barnes, Bennett, Hicks and Judkins each totaled 10 kills.
The group accounted for all but five of the kills as Louisiana held a decisive 32-21 margin in kills over the final two sets.
Hicks was nearly unstoppable as her production came only 16 swings and was without error.
Ogogor furnished eight kills on a .353 hitting percentage and had a hand in four blocks including the solo stuff that secured match point.
Barnes was the team's leading blocker with seven total (1 BS, 6 BA). She had a hand in three blocks during the fourth-set scoring spree that turned the Trojans away for good.
Hannah Ramirez was tied with Gillett for the team-lead in digs with 16. It was the second straight match with a double-double for Gillett, while Bennett's 13 digs locked up her team-leading 11th double-double.
Siena DeCambra and Kotorman were equally effective in guiding the Ragin' Cajuns offense as they finished with 26 and 25 assists, respectively.
Louisiana concludes the first round of matchups against its fellow Sun Belt West Division members on Tuesday, Oct. 12 in Monroe at ULM. First serve from Fant-Ewing Coliseum is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Following the visit to Monroe, the Ragin' Cajuns remain on the road traveling to the East Coast for matches with Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina from Friday-Sunday, Oct. 15-17.
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