This past weekend, the Cajuns’ volleyball squad opened play in the newly-renovated Earl K. Long Gym on Alumni Weekend for the Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic. Their opponents for the tournament were the North Dakota State Bison, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros, and the University of Texas San Antonio Roadrunners. These teams were no pushovers; they had opened their seasons with a combined 7–3 record, highlighted by a 3-1 Roadrunner victory over McNeese State, who sported a third-place record in the Southland Conference last year.
The Cajuns finished with a 2–1 record, again good for second-best of the classic and now tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference.
First up on Friday, Sept. 2 was North Dakota State, which ended 25–20, 25–15, 23–25, 25–12. The next match against the Vaqueros would end in a loss, 25–22, 19–25, 17–25, and 17–25. A brutal stretch of unforced errors would drag the team’s momentum way down. By the end of the day, though, senior hitter Kelsey Bennett would become the fourth player in Cajuns history to record over 1,000 kills in the rally scoring era, as reported by UL Athletics.
The last game of the series on Saturday made for a bit more intrigue as the Roadrunners would push for a five-set match, which the Cajuns would win 30–28, 24–26, 25–19, 14–25, 15–8. Bennett had arguably her best game of the year so far, with a total 21 kills, 24 digs and 2 blocks.
The most impactful players for the Cajuns’ offense were again Bennett and sophomore Coco Gillett, who together led the team in sets played, kills, digs and aces. Bennett averaged an astounding 4.3 kills and 5 digs per set, Gillett averaged 2.15 kills per set and 3.38 digs per set.
For the North Dakota State match, Celeste Darling was again the third leading scorer, recording 12 kills and helping to push the tempo during a relatively quiet game for Gillett. In the next two matches, though, junior blocker Kara Barnes stepped into a major scoring role, securing 24 kills over nine sets on top of her usual contributions on defense.
Again leading the team in solo and assisted blocks were Barnes and sophomore Cami Hicks; they combined for 16 total blocks and posted 1 and .89 blocks per set respectively. Hicks also made a valuable contribution on offense with 15 kills over the three matches.
Junior and sophomore setters Reka Kotorman and Siena DeCambra were first and second in assists for the team and put up 20+ assists in all three matches. Kotorman recorded an astounding 31 assists against North Dakota State and 44 assists against UTSA. Junior outside hitter Mya Wilson and freshman hitter Lauryn Hill also stepped up in small but critical stretches during the last two matches, combining for 13 kills in those matches.