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Volleyball: Louisiana Triumphant in Five-Set Thriller in Little Rock
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Volleyball team prevailed in a tight battle with Little Rock on Friday at the Jack Stephens Center to remain undefeated in Sun Belt play and extend their current win streak to nine matches.
The Ragin' Cajuns (14-7, 7-0 SBC) and Trojans (6-14, 2-6 SBC) were separated by a total of three points – the margin of Louisiana's victory in the decisive fifth set.
With the 3-2 (27-25, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-12) triumph Louisiana completed the season sweep of Little Rock. The Cajuns won in four sets at Earl K. Long Gym back on Sept. 30.
The Ragin' Cajuns .300 hitting percentage over the first two sets (29 K, 5 E, 80 TA) carried them to a 2-0 lead in the match. The Trojans took advantage of nine attack errors by Louisiana in the third set win to stay alive, then turned the tables with a set-ending 10-3 run in the fourth frame to force the winner-take-all stanza.
Paced by a .375 hitting percentage in the fifth set, Louisiana never trailed on the way to clinching the match. Stacey Reilly's season-high 20th kill of the match gave the Cajuns a three-point edge, 13-10, and later it was freshman Hali Wisnoskie scoring match point off a kill on an overpass.
Nine straight wins is Louisiana's lengthiest win streak since opening 10-0 in the 2014 season. The school record unblemished conference start, besting the previous mark of 4-0 by the 1986 team, was extended to 7-0.
LEADING THE RAGIN' CAJUNS
Reilly reached 20 kills for the first time this season and pushed her career total to 958 which moves her past Lesley Mirarchi into second place on the rally era career list. In the last visit of her career to Little Rock, she equaled her output from the trip in her freshman campaign (20 kills on Oct. 10, 2014).
Wisnoskie established her Sun Belt benchmark for the second straight outing, landing 17 kills on a .298 hitting percentage. The Columbus, Texas, native pushed her season kills total over 200, becoming the first freshman since Reilly (250 in 2014) to reach the mark.
The middle blocking tandem of Dree'Ana Abram (11 kills, .333 pct.) and Nia Antoine (10 kills, .300 pct.) each reached double digits in kills and hit above .300. Right side hitter Hanna Rovira supplied an additional eight kills.
Louisiana out-blocked Little Rock once again, 11-10, receiving a match-high seven (1 BS, 6 BA) from Abram and three apiece from Antoine, Jessica Bartczyszyn and Rovira.
Libero Sydney Davis' match-high 31 digs also represented her season-high total. Freshmen Lexi Hebert (15) and Avery Breaux (12) also scooped double figures.
Louisiana wraps up its weekend trip to Arkansas on Sunday in Jonesboro. The Ragin' Cajuns and Red Wolves are slated to meet at Noon inside the Convocation Center.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- Trailing 21-19 in the first set, the Ragin' Cajuns kept the Trojans within their grasp by drawing even following a Wisnoskie kill and Abram block. The teams swapped sideouts with Little Rock eventually moving to set point at 24-23.
After a Louisiana timeout, the Trojans lost the serve on an error by Nedima Kamberovic, and the Cajuns won another point when Reilly threw up a block for a 25-24 lead. Little Rock pulled even on a kill by Marina Avram, but followed with its costliest miscue of the frame when Veronica Marin missed on her serve. Wisnoskie made the hosts pay with a kill that gave Louisiana a 1-0 match lead.
- Three straight kills, one by Abram and two from Reilly, moved Louisiana into the lead in the second set at 8-6. The Ragin' Cajuns never trailed again and led by as many as five.
As they did all night, the Trojans battled back forging a pair of late ties. Louisiana turned the hosts away with a kill by Abram for a 24-23 lead and a block thrown up by Abram and Rovira for set point and a 2-0 lead.
- The Ragin' Cajuns match-high nine attack errors in the third set allowed Little Rock to hang around. The final three played a part in Louisiana losing a 15-13 lead and the Trojans obtaining the final lead change at 19-18.
The Trojans' final push was a pair of Marin kills and an ace from Maritza Mesa in between that opened a 24-20 edge. The Cajuns fought off set point three straight rallies before an errant set resulted in a miscue that gave Little Rock the win.
- Louisiana bounced back with a .227 hitting percentage in the fourth set and after a 6-1 run erased a 12-9 deficit appeared headed to close out the match. However, the inability to break Sydnee Martin's serve late caused a 20-16 lead slip away. Martin's run ended with an error that made it 22-21, but Marin responded with back-to-back kills to move the Trojans to set point.
- Paced by four kills, the Ragin' Cajuns were ahead 8-4 when the teams switched sides in the fifth frame. Little Rock fought back again and was within a point three times, but each time Louisiana had an answer.
At 11-10, it was Antoine with the kill to preserve the lead and Reilly followed with the biggest of the night to up the advantage to three points.
- Head coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot picked up her 133rd win as Ragin' Cajuns head coach. She's now three (3) wins shy of tying Wilo Colon's program-record 136 victories.
- The Ragin' Cajuns improved to 9-10 vs. Little Rock with Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot, the most wins by any coach in program history in the series.
- Louisiana swept the season series with Little Rock for the first time since 2013. The Ragin' Cajuns won in five sets at the Jack Stephens Center for the second straight season.
- Louisiana won the first set for the ninth consecutive match, improving to 15-6 in the opening frame. The Ragin' Cajuns improved to 10-3 in matches of four sets or more.
- The Ragin' Cajuns have been triumphant on the opposition's home floor each of the last five chances. The streak began with a four-set win at Chicago State back on Sept. 15.
- Sydney Davis' 31 digs were one short of her career-high total (32) set last season vs. Georgia Southern at Earl K. Long Gym (Sept. 24, 2016) and matched a week later in Little Rock (Sept. 30, 2016).
- Nia Antoine is now 14 kills away from reaching the 500-mark in her career. Antoine's 10 kills marked her ninth time reaching double figures this season.
- Stacey Reilly is now 42 kills away from the 1,000th of her career. She seeks to join Chanelle Gardner (1,000 career kills) as the only Ragin' Cajuns to play an entire career in the rally scoring era and reach the plateau. Already with 1,000 career digs, Reilly is on pace to become the first Ragin' Cajun with a 1,000-1,000 career since Priscilla Lima (1999-2002).
- Senior setter Jessica Bartczyszyn's 56 assists gave her an average of over 10 per set for the fifth time in seven Sun Belt matches. She raised her overall season average to 10 per set. In SBC play, she is averaging 10.71 per set, guiding the Ragin' Cajuns to 13.7 kills per set and a .240 attack percentage
FOLLOW THE RAGIN' CAJUNS
For more information on Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns Volleyball, as well as all of Ragin' Cajuns Athletics, visit RaginCajuns.com. Fans can also follow along with the team on Facebook (/ULVolleyball), Twitter (@RaginCajunsVB) and Instagram (@RaginCajunsVB).
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