In the third week of September, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns volleyball team struggled against the Troy Trojans, losing two games in straight sets at home.
Head Coach Kristi Gray did not pull any punches while talking about this stretch of play.
“Definitely not the way we wanted to start conference,” Gray said in a Sept. 25 press conference.
“For me, very disappointing weekend. That’s not our standard, that’s not our expectation of how Louisiana volleyball’s supposed to be.”
To her, the main area of focus was obvious: unforced errors. “We’re right there, neck-and-neck, we’re up, and then we make errors, mostly serves at key points that just kill the whole vibe,” Gray said.
“I think that’s hard. The girls didn’t respond well to that,” Gray said. “Match two, between sets two and three, if you were to ask me how I felt going into set three and where this match was about to go, I wouldn’t have guessed that’s how we would’ve come out.”
The numbers bore this out, as the Cajuns averaged 17 errors and a kill percent well below the oppositions’ across the two matches.
“Their demeanor in the locker room, how fired up they were to go reverse sweep was where their head was, so I felt good going into set three on day two,” Gray said. A woeful 12 points scored and no kills in the pair’s final set would add insult to injury as the Cajuns left Earl K. Long for the following week.
“We started off with one mistake and it led to another,” Gray said. “For me, it was just a look of defeat, like we had given up, and like I said, that’s not who we are, that’s not the standard.”
“Moving forward, it’s going to be different.”
There were some hints of optimism in the opening of Gray’s presser, though. “Yesterday at practice, we had probably one of the best practices we had all season,” Gray said. “We worked really hard, and I’m looking forward to this week going into Arkansas State.”
On Friday, Sept. 29 the team arrived in Jonesboro to take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“Any road win is going to be great for us, so it would be a great reset,” Gray said when asked if the team was due for a reset. “Fortunately for us, we’ve spent a majority of our preseason on the road so it’s not foreign to our girls, and I think it’s something they’re going to be able to handle.”
In the first match, senior hitters Celeste Darling, Kara Barnes and Mya Wilson took the helm at offense, combining for a majority of the team’s kills. Darling and Wilson finished with great accuracy for volume at a .348 and .368 kill percentage respectively.
The return of junior setter Siena DeCambria from injury gave the team a boost on that end as she recorded 18 assists and split duties with freshman Maddi Fritz, who worked in 14 assists of her own.
Junior blocker Cami Hicks also contributed to scoring with six kills on a very efficient .429 percentage. Junior transfer Mio Yamamoto showed real hustle at the libero position, pacing all players in digs with 12 and giving the Cajuns the lead in that category.
The defense only totaled seven total blocks, but the team played clean enough to win in straight sets, 25-11, 25-23, 25-18.
In the second match, junior hitter Shyia Richardson took over offensively, leading the team with 16 kills on 61 attempts. DeCambria played the full game, leading all players with 47 assists, and Hicks was again very efficient with 12 kills at a .455 percentage. Blocks and digs came as a team effort as the Cajuns came away with another victory, 29-27, 31-33, 25-18, 25-17.
Next up, the Cajuns will look to keep the momentum going against the Texas State Bobcats in San Marcos for a pair of matches on Oct. 6 and 7.