STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns Volleyball team came up one set victory shy of capturing the StarkVegas Classic title as host-Mississippi State pulled off the reverse sweep and claimed a 3-2 (21-25, 21-25, 25-14, 25-20, 15-13) win on Sunday, August 27 in the finale of the tournament at the Newell-Grissom Building.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (2-1) stormed out the gates with 30 kills in opening a 2-0 match lead over the Bulldogs (3-0).
The quick start was highlighted by Louisiana claiming the first four points of Set 1 and leading wire-to-wire. A pair of Shyia Richardson kills kicked off a 5-0 run that stretched the lead to 21-14 and allowed UL to separate from MSU.
The early advantage on offense paid off for the Cajuns in a second set that featured 11 ties and six lead changes. UL out-killed MSU 16-10 in the frame, the final two kills coming off the swing of Emery Judkins to break away from a 22-20 score.
Mississippi State was able to contain Louisiana’s offense and turn the tide by ramping up its defense, particularly on the front line where the Bulldogs posted 11 blocks over the final three sets.
When the Cajuns found their offensive rhythm again in the decisive fifth set, totaling 10 kills in the frame, MSU had the timely block waiting.
Richardson, who scored six kills in Set 5, fired away from the back row for the kill that gave UL an 8-6 lead. After the teams swapped sides, the Bulldogs found a quick 5-1 burst capped off by a block for an 11-9 lead.
Later it was kills from Judkins and Richardson that forged the ninth tie of the winner-take-all stanza at 13-all. The Cajuns, though, were unable to hold serve or gain another side out as the Bulldogs closed with back-to-back kills.
Louisiana held a 56-53 advantage in kills, but MSU’s decisive 16-7 edge in blocks was the staple of a defensive effort that forced the Cajuns into 38 attack errors and a .098 hitting percentage.
LEADING THE RAGIN’ CAJUNS
Richardson turned in a third consecutive double-digit kills effort, netting a match-high 20 kills. The San Francisco transfer finished the tournament with 54 kills (4.91/set).
Kara Barnes was the other Cajun in double figures with 10 kills, her weekend-best total. She also had a hand in three blocks.
Cami Hicks was involved in four blocks and tied her weekend-high with eight kills.
Richardson led a group of four Cajuns with double-figure digs, rounding up 15 to land a double-double for the second straight day. She was joined in double figures by Kennedy Gustafson (14), Siena DeCambra (11) and Mio Yamamoto (11).
DeCambra was responsible for 44 out of Louisiana’s 53 assists and added a kill and two blocks to her stat line.
UP NEXT FOR LOUISIANA
The season-opening road trip continues on Tuesday, August 29 when Louisiana travels to Houston to face off with preseason No. 23 Rice in a 6:00 p.m. match in Tudor Fieldhouse. The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ with live stats available at CajunStats.com.
The Rice contest will be followed by a trip to Lubbock, Texas for the Red Raider Classic hosted by Texas Tech from Friday-Saturday, September 1-2 for matches with Texas A&M-Commerce, Wyoming and Texas Tech.
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