She may have dipped into the coaches’ cliché book Monday, but there was no better way for UL volleyball coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot to describe her team’s one-week transformation.
“What a difference a week makes,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said after the Ragin’ Cajuns rolled to three straight wins in capturing its own Sawyer Camillo Memorial tournament title.
One week earlier, the Cajuns (3-3) were struggling for answers after disheartening home-court losses to Incarnate Word, UTEP and Tulane. Now, they’re reveling in a tournament title, including a shutout 3-0 win over an Eastern Michigan team that was an NCAA tournament squad last season.
That came only hours after a come-from-behind 3-2 win over in-state rival McNeese, and UL closed out its second straight home tournament with an easy victory over Florida A&M. The Cajuns will take that momentum into their first non-tournament match against Southern Mississippi at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The abrupt reversal of fortune wasn’t hard to figure out.
“We decided to not error as much,” she said. “That was really the bottom line. We had our three bet offensive outings of the season, and when you do that, and you dig and block as well as we’ve been doing, you’re going to be successful.”
The Cajuns more than doubled their kill percentage from the opening weekend and took advantage of a scheme change, going to an offensive attack that can take advantage of UL’s available numbers on the front line.
“We’re able to go far into our bench this year,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “We’ve got a lot of depth in the middle position with Dree’Ana Abram and Tia Jade Smith shoring up those spots for us, and that gives our other hitters a lot of opportunities.”
The Cajuns got a huge weekend from true freshman and tournament MVP Celeste Darling on the right side. The McKinney, Texas, product hit over .300 in all three matches and 41 kills, including 17 — with only one error — in the finale against Florida A&M. She also served out six straight points including two aces to end a pivotal comeback second set against Eastern Michigan.
“She pretty much had no errors all weekend,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “She really had a great weekend both attacking and blocking, and it was good to see that. We’d seen that coming slowly, and we’re hoping she can continue that.”
Abram, a senior, had 25 kills on only 48 attempts over the weekend and also led the team with five aces.
Tuesday’s match wraps up a seven-match homestand to start the season and comes against a Golden Eagle team that has yet to notch a win (0-6) against a tough early schedule. The Cajuns will get their own dose of tough scheduling over the next two weekends when they travel to the Oklahoma Invitational in Norman, Okla., Friday and Saturday, and the Gator Invitational in Gainesville, Fla., the following week.
UL then opens Sun Belt Conference play with a difficult road swing to nationally-ranked Texas State and UT-Arlington, meaning that after Tuesday’s match the Cajuns don’t return to Earl K. Long Gym until Oct. 4.
“These are big ones, power five tournaments,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “I scheduled this way because I knew we play the Texas schools in the first week of conference, and I want to make sure that in three weeks we’re ready for that.”
VOLLEYBALL: Southern Miss (0-6) at UL (3-3)
WHEN: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Earl K. Long Gym, UL campus
RADIO: none. STREAMING: ragincajuns.com