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Oct 13, 2013 11:41 PM by UL Sports Information

Inspired Ragin' Cajuns Rally To Stun WKU In Five-Set Thriller

LAFAYETTE - Freshman Chanelle Gardner recorded three of her nine kills in a decisive fifth set and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns volleyball team rallied to claim the final two sets and stun Sun Belt Conference co-leader WKU, 26-28, 25-20, 11-25, 25-23, 15-13, on Sunday at Earl K. Long Gym.

Coming off a disappointing four-set loss to South Alabama on Friday, Louisiana (13-8, 3-4 Sun Belt) turned in its best match of the season and snapped a 38-match Sun Belt Conference regular-season win streak by WKU (16-5, 6-1 Sun Belt) dating back to a straight-set loss to UALR on Oct. 9, 2011. The victory for the Ragin' Cajuns snapped a 16-match losing streak to the Lady Toppers, including 10 straight in three sets.

Tonice White and Kaylee Nemeth had 11 kills each while Andrea Hole had 39 assists and 14 digs as the Ragin' Cajuns overcame a third set in which it hit -.042 at the net while WKU, which was ranked just outside the AVCA Top 25 poll (No. 29), hit at a blistering .600 pace.

"Having a win like this, it's a program changer," Ragin' Cajuns head coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "We've always said we wanted to show the (Sun Belt) conference that we're here and that we mean business. And when we lose matches like we did on Friday, where we played inspired the first set and just kind of let it slip away.

"Today, we did that in the third set, but their (WKU's hitting) errors in the fourth allowed us to gain our footing again. What I love the most about our performance today was that when it was tied up at two sets apiece, our team came with it and there was no sense of they were Western Kentucky and we were UL, it was like ‘OK, let's bring on those (final) 15 points and let's see who plays the hardest.'"

WKU, ranked No. 6 nationally in hitting percentage (.313) entering the weekend, built a quick 7-2 lead in the fourth set forcing the Ragin' Cajuns to call a timeout. Louisiana closed to within 11-9 on a kill by Lavinia Tataran before WKU pushed its lead to 14-9 forcing the Ragin' Cajuns to call its final timeout of the set.

The Lady Toppers led 18-14 on a kill by Paige Wessel, but Kelly Wiesmann added a kill and combined on a block with Gardner to help Louisiana pull to within 18-17.

Trailing 22-20, the Ragin' Cajuns got a kill from Nemeth before consecutive hitting errors by WKU helped Louisiana claim a 23-22 advantage. A kill by WKU's Heather Boyan tied the set at 23-23, but Nemeth added a kill and the Ragin' Cajuns forced a fifth set when Janee' Diggins' attempt at the net sailed wide.

In the fifth set, the Ragin' Cajuns forced seven hitting errors by WKU and took control with a 5-1 scoring spurt that snapped a 5-5 contest. An attack error by Haley Bodway gave the Ragin' Cajuns a 6-5 lead before a solo block by Tataran, a kill by Nemeth, a hitting error by Diggins and a kill by White upped the Louisiana lead to 10-6.

WKU chipped away at the lead, closing to 13-10 on a combined block by Noelle Langenkamp and Wessel, but Hole found Gardner with a quick kill up the middle before Nemeth eventually closed out the match with a kill off the right side.

"I can't say enough about Andrea Hole, she set a great match," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "She found the hot hand when we needed it with Kaylee Nemeth. Chanelle (Gardner) had a crushing kill in that fifth set, that when we needed a point, she brought it in."

Tataran added 11 digs for the Ragin' Cajuns, which entered the match leading Sun Belt Conference in digs per set (15.21). Caitlyn Auxilien added 10 digs for Louisiana while Taylor Meade added seven, increasing her career total to 1,004 and becoming the fifth player since 2003 to record 1,000 digs.

Sara Mossakowski added five kills, five digs and four service aces for Louisiana, which collected seven aces in the match. Gardner added five blocks for the Ragin' Cajuns, including three solos.

Wessel, Langenkamp and Diggins had 16 kills each to pace WKU, which hit .244 for the contest. Stutsman posted a double-double with 57 assists and 11 digs for the Lady Toppers while Ashley Potts led all players with 28 digs.

Louisiana will return to action on Friday when it faces league newcomer Georgia State in a 7 p.m. contest at Earl K. Long Gym.

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