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Volleyball: Bennett, Gillett Represent Louisiana on All-SBC Volleyball Team - Play Begins Thursday
Pair sparked the Ragin’ Cajuns offensive efforts throughout the 2021 campaign
LAFAYETTE – The outsider hitter tandem of junior Kelsey Bennett and freshman Coco Gillett represented Louisiana Volleyball on the 2021 All-Sun Belt Conference Volleyball Team, it was announced by the conference office on Wednesday (Nov. 17, 2021).
Bennett was selected to the All-Sun Belt First Team, marking the second consecutive year she receives accolades (2020 All-Sun Belt Second Team).
Gillett was named to the All-Sun Belt Second Team in her debut season with the Ragin' Cajuns and within the league.
The duo, which combined to average six-plus kills per set in the regular season, becomes the first All-Sun Belt performers of the Kristi Gray era.
It's the fifth consecutive season Louisiana placed multiple honorees on the All-Sun Belt Team – continuing the longest stretch as a member of the league. The total number of All-Sun Belt selections in program history grew to 30.
Bennett becomes the seventh individual in program history to earn multiple All-Sun Belt honors, joining a list that includes UL Hall of Famers Nia Kiggundu and Priscilla Lima plus Janaina Gomes, Clarice Laires, Hali Wisnoskie and Avery Breaux.
Producing a third consecutive 200-200 season of kills and digs, and the first-ever 300-300 season of her collegiate career, landed Bennett repeat All-SBC honors. She was the only outside hitter in the Sun Belt with 300 kills and a .250-plus hitting percentage during regular season play.
Bennett generated career-highs of 357 kills and 320 digs and scored double digits in kills in all but three of Louisiana's 24 matches. The Allen, Texas product ranked Top 5 in kills both overall and in Sun Belt play.
The three-time SBC Offensive Player of the Week, Bennett turned in 15 double-doubles including three 20-20 double-doubles of kills and digs.
A transfer from SFA, Gillett produced a career-best 271 kills on a .224 hitting percentage in her debut season with Louisiana. She enters the Sun Belt Tournament 20 digs shy of a 200-200 season and 29 kills shy of a 300-kill campaign.
Gillett started Sun Belt play with six consecutive matches of double-digit kills, and reached double figures in kills in all but four of 16 league contests. She closed out the regular season with 30-plus kills over two of the last three weekends, and four double-doubles over the last five outings.
During the team's season-high, five-match win streak Gillett totaled at least five kills in the match-clinching set four times as the Ragin' Cajuns posted their first-ever sweep of the first round of SBC West play.
Texas State's Emily DeWalt was named Sun Belt Player of the Year and Setter of the Year, and teammate Janell Fitzgerland received Offensive Player of the Year. Georgia State's Meisheia Griffin picked up Defensive Player of the Year, Arkansas State's Tatum Ticknor was awarded Libero of the Year, Coastal Carolina's Cheyenne Jones was chosen Newcomer of the Year, and Freshman of the Year went to Georgia Southern's Ashlyn Lovett. Coach of the Year honors went to South Alabama's Jesse Ortiz.
The 2021 All-Sun Belt postseason awards were voted on by the league's 12 head coaches.
All-Sun Belt First Team
Macey Putt, Arkansas State
Tatum Ticknor, Arkansas State
Laura Jansen, Little Rock
Ani Bozdeva, Coastal Carolina
Baylor Bumford, Georgia Southern
Meisheia Griffin, Georgia State
Kelsey Bennett, Louisiana
Kailey Keeble, South Alabama
Briana Brown, UTA
Emily DeWalt, Texas State
Janell Fitzgerald, Texas State
Julia Brooks, Troy
All-Sun Belt Second Team
Emma Reilly, App State
Doris Carter, Coastal Carolina
Cheyenne Jones, Coastal Carolina
Brigitta Petrenko, Coastal Carolina
Coco Gillett, Louisiana
Hannah Maddux, South Alabama
Maddie Soboleski, South Alabama
Kennedy Wallace, South Alabama
Alli Wells, UTA
Jada Gardner, Texas State
Tyeranee Scott, Texas State
Amara Anderson, Troy
Player of the Year: Emily DeWalt, Texas State
Offensive Player of the Year: Janell Fitzgerald, Texas State
Defensive Player of the Year: Meisheia Griffin, Georgia State
Libero of the Year: Tatum Ticknor, Arkansas State
Setter of the Year: Emily DeWalt, Texas State
Newcomer of the Year: Cheyenne Jones, Coastal Carolina
Freshman of the Year: Ashlyn Lovett, Georgia Southern
Coach of the Year: Jesse Ortiz, South Alabama
The 2021 season has served as the inaugural campaign for Louisiana with head coach Kristi Gray, who was hired on April 26 after five highly successful seasons at Odessa College.
The Ragin' Cajuns (14-10, 9-7 Sun Belt) have operated one of the Sun Belt's most efficient offenses utilizing Gray's up-tempo system. The team led the conference in hitting percentage through Oct. 23 and remained Top 5 through season's end, finishing at .230 which is the program's rally era record.
Boosted by a clean sweep of the first round of SBC West Division play, which included the program's first-ever win over Texas State in San Marcos, Louisiana was in contention for the division title entering the month of November.
Louisiana faces Appalachian State at 5 p.m. (CST) on Thursday, Nov. 18 in the Foley Sports Tourism Complex in Foley, Ala., to begin play in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.
The Ragin' Cajuns received the No. 3 seed out of the SBC West Division and the Mountaineers (7-21, 3-13 Sun Belt) were the No. 6 seed out of the SBC East Division. The winner plays the East's second seed, Coastal Carolina (18-8, 12-4 Sun Belt), on Friday, Nov. 19 at 5 p.m. (CST).
The Sun Belt's postseason event, which runs through Sunday, Nov. 21, is back in Foley for the second straight season. All 12 teams will compete for the league's automatic bid to the 2021 NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament with every match broadcast live via ESPN.
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