FOLEY, Ala. (KLFY) – The Louisiana Volleyball team’s progress in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament was halted by Coastal Carolina which got the critical scoring spurts and the critical moments in a 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-20) win for the Chants on Friday, November 17 at the Foley Events Center.
Coastal (20-9), the SBC East No. 1 seed and overall champion, flipped the script on Louisiana (19-13) in the opening set by erasing a 16-13 deficit with a 6-1 run to claim the lead for good on the way to getting on the board first.
In Set 2, the Chants found a momentum shift in the latter stages once again. After the Cajuns closed within 17-15, it was a 4-1 mini-run that included a pair of aces that gave Coastal breathing room to claim the 2-0 match lead.
Louisiana had a fourth set in its grasp in Set 3, rolling out to an 8-5 start and recovering to even the frame at 15-all out of the media timeout. However, the Chants found the late-set surge once again with a 5-1 run that opened a 20-16 edge and had the Cajuns chasing to stay alive.
Ultimately it was Coastal’s offense, which produced 49 kills on .324 hitting, and a defense that out-dug UL 57-44 that was able to fend off a Ragin’ Cajuns battle that caused the Chanticleers to scratch for every point. CCU fired off match-bests of 19 kills and a .447 percentage to close out the straight sets sweep.
The Cajuns offense wasn’t able to get comfortable after the opening set slipped away, hitting sub-.100 the final two sets. The defense though kept pushing, collecting 18 digs per set down the stretch in an attempt to extend the match.
Louisiana was bested on a neutral court for only second time in eight outings the 2023 season and rounded out Sun Belt Tournament play at 1-1 for the third straight season with head coach Kristi Gray.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Cami Hicks was the offensive catalyst for the Cajuns during a back-and-forth start to Set 1, knocking down four kills to help UL maintain a 13-12 edge.
Back-to-back blocks involving Celeste Darling increased the Cajuns lead to 16-13, but the tide turned moments later when Coastal got back-to-back overpass kills from Valentina Varani and an ace from Jasmine Rivest to leap ahead for good at 19-17.
A pair of kills after Lauryn Hill opened Set 2 with a score for the Cajuns had CCU in front from practically start-to-finish. A combo block from Hill and Hicks lowered the deficit to 10-8, continuing the early trend of UL remaining with two points, but the Chants came back with a pair of blocks of their own which started a 4-0 run.
Louisiana stormed back and was on the verge of evening the frame after Chelsea George’s ace made it 17-16. Coastal countered with the offense of Jalyn Stout for a timely side out and then her service game, notching two aces, to break away for a 21-16 advantage.
The heavy hitting of Celeste Darling early in Set 3, who wound up with six kills in the stanza, positioned the Cajuns out to an 8-5 lead. Coastal heated up with six kills during a 9-2 run that turned the tables.
UL pressured CCU into mistakes out of the media timeout, a ball handling error and attack error part of a 4-0 Cajuns run that evened the score at 15-all. A pair of untimely miscues by the Cajuns allowed the Chants to separate, then back-to-back kills from Rivest upped the lead to 20-16.
LEADING THE RAGIN’ CAJUNS
Fueled by her third-set uprising, Darling finished as the Cajuns leader with 11 kills. The production pushed her season total over the 300-mark – the first occurrence of the senior opposite hitter’s collegiate career.
It was the second double-digit kills performance in as many matches for Darling in the SBC Tournament, increasing her event total to 29 kills off of 59 swings. She posted her third straight match of double figures in kills, overall, and the 15th such performance of her senior season.
Darling, along with Hill and Mya Wilson had a hand in three blocks. Two of the three stuffs from Darling were solos.
Hill and Wilson both added six kills to their final stat line. Hicks and Shyia Richardson each supplied five kills, adding to the balanced effort from the Cajuns.
Setter Siena DeCambra wound up the team’s leader in digs, totaling 11 scoops to go with her 29 assists. Hill joined her in double digits with 10 digs.
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