LAFAYETTE — The last time Louisiana-Lafayette’s volleyball team started a season with seven straight wins, they weren’t even a part of the Sun Belt Conference.
Now, the Cajuns have a legitimate chance to go into Sun Belt play undefeated, and that hasn’t happened since the program joined the league in 1991.
“That’s pretty good,” said Cajuns coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot, “but I told my girls when you’re on a streak you don’t talk about it.”
The Cajuns know, though. They know they’re 7-0, the third-best start in school history, after winning back-to-back tournament titles to open the season. Almost a quarter-century ago, the 1990 UL-Lafayette team started 13-0 in the program’s final year in the old American South Conference.
One more tournament awaits before the Sept. 17 league opener at home against South Alabama and that comes this weekend when the Cajuns join Sam Houston State, Oral Roberts and host Houston in the Flo Hyman Collegiate Classic. UL-Lafayette meets SHSU at 4 p.m. Friday and has a Saturday twinbill against ORU at 9 a.m. and UH at 3 p.m.
Remaining perfect may be tougher than the past two weekends, and that’s saying something. The opening weekend sweep at the Rice Invitational included a win over defending Mountain West Conference champion Fresno State and a Rice team picked second in Conference USA.
Last weekend at the Cajuns’ Sawyer Camillo Memorial Classic, they topped a solid Southern Miss team and beat a Northwestern State team that had knocked 15th-ranked Missouri out of the polls one week earlier.
“We had a great weekend,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said of sweeping four matches on their Earl K. Long Gym home floor.
“The championship match we were tired, I could tell ... four matches in a two-day weekend is a lot, but these girls are tenacious.”
This weekend, though, their three opponents are a combined 14-7, and hold a combined 20-2 advantage over UL-Lafayette in their all-time series. But Mazeitis-Fontenot said her team is improving with every match, and that their 21-6 sets advantage could be even better.
“The reasons that teams have beaten us in a set here and there were on our side of the court, and that part’s very fixable,” she said. “We’re trying to fix the little things where other teams don’t go on five or six-point runs against us.”
It helps to have four-year veteran Andrea Hole as part of those fixes. The Oslo, Norway, senior has been the MVP in each of the Cajuns’ two tournaments this year, and her 285 assists rank 14th nationally. Her sets helped UL-Lafayette to a solid .259 hitting percentage in last week’s tournament.
“That’s who she is and who we knew she was,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “She’s accepted that she’s the cog that makes this team go. She doesn’t do anything flashy; she just does things more consistently than she ever has.”
Sophomore middle blocker Chanelle Gardner of St. Martinville and freshman outside hitter Stacey Reilly of Houston also were all-tournament picks last weekend, but Mazeitis-Fontenot said she’d like to see more from Reilly and junior Sara Mossakowski from the outside.
“We need more dominance from our outside attackers,” she said.
“Sara and Stacey are doing a solid job, but Sara’s a killer, and we’ve seen glimpses of that. I’d like to see Stacey’s shot selection improve, when she gets against a double-block she’s not doing the difficult thing, and we want her to risk a little more. She may get blocked, but she’ll also come up with enormous plays.”
The Cajuns were picked sixth, right in the middle of the 11-team Sun Belt after going 19-14 and 9-9 in the league last year.
“We can be a lot better than that,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “This team is much better able to change things on the fly, better than any other team I’ve had here.
“Their court intelligence is really getting us to a better place now.”