NCAA volleyball begins: Cajuns sweep HBU, Texas State wins twice

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Louisiana’s Tia Jade Smith blasts through the block of Houston Baptist’s Mikayla Vivens, left, and Ebony Ballesteros/Lee Feinswog photo

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — Just in case, it was senior night for the Ragin’ Cajuns.

After all, in this new volleyball world, who knows? So Louisiana coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot made sure her four seniors were honored here Friday evening as her team opened NCAA Division I play against Houston Baptist.

Ultimately, with few fans —mostly players’ parents — in the building, one of those seniors, Hali Wisnoskie, had 18 kills as the Cajuns swept HBU as the season got under way, not only here, but with three matches at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, Texas. Texas State is 2-0 after beating both the home team and Central Arkansas (recaps below).

Wisnoskie, an outside from Columbus, Texas, hit .390 as she had just two errors in 41 attacks in the 25-12, 25-15, 25-19 victory. She added an assist, an ace, nine digs and two blocks.

“We did better than I expected, honestly,” Wisnoskie admitted. “We showed up, we played and we played hard. I think overall we looked really good.”

The other seniors were Hannah Ramirez, a DS from Waxahachie, Texas; Julia Angelo, an outside from Palm Harbor, Florida; and local product Avery Breaux, a setter from nearby Scott

“That was really fun,” said Mazeitis-Fontenot, whose team led 17-3 in the first set. “You never know how they’re going to compete. You know, we’ve been quarantined, we’ve been off, we’ve been on … “

The Cajuns were certainly on Friday. They hit .279, which included 10 kills by Kara Barnes, who had two errors in 16 attacks to hit .500. She had three blocks, one solo. The other middle, Tia Jade Smith, five kills, hit .364, and had six blocks, one solo.

Louisiana followed all the COVID protocols for its volleyball match, including sports information director Matt Hebert, who wore a mask and a shield.

Louisiana served tough and played scrappy defense.

”I’m super happy how this went,” said Mazeitis-Fontenot, whose team finished ninth in the NCAA last  year in digs per set with 17.88. The Cajuns had 60 against HBU, including 21 by Ramirez, who also had an assist and two of her team’s five aces.

The same teams play again at noon Central Saturday in Earl K. Long Gym.

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Stephen F. Austin played host to Texas State of the SBC and Central Arkansas of the Southland. SFA finished 31-2 last year — 16-0 in the Southland — before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to USC.

Play opened Friday with an exciting start, as Texas State got past UCA 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 19-25, 18-16 behind 27 kills by Caitlin Buettner. The 6-2 sophomore outside from El Paso had just four errors in 61 swings as she hit .377 and added three assists and 17 digs. Janell Fitzgerald added 15 kills and hit .379 to go with two blocks, one solo, and Tyeranee Scott and Tessa Marshall had 10 kills each.

UCA’s Amanda Beaton had 24 kills with three errors in 56 attacks to hit . 375. She added an assist, two aces, 10 digs and a solo block. Lexi Miller had 19 kills, hit .333, and had two digs and two blocks, one solo.

In the second match, SFA picked up right where it left off last season, beating UCA 25-12, 25-15, 21-25, 25-17 as Payton Cerny led with 12 kills and Leah Powell and Ariana Pagan had 11 each. Cerny hit .479 and had three blocks, one solo. Three players had nine kills each for UCA, which hit .077.

Texas State overpowered SFA 25-20, 25-20, 25-14 as Fitzgerald led with 14 kills, hitting .391, to go with four digs and two blocks, one solo. Buettner had 12 kills, two assists, two aces, six digs and a block. SFA hit .095.

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Also Friday, the ACC announced its three-pod schedule that begins September 17. The Big 12 set its slate last week, while the SEC has yet to reveal its plans.

 

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