Aug 19, 2014 3:01 PM by UL Sports Information
LAFAYETTE, La. - With three of the Ragin' Cajuns top hitters from a year ago and a slew of newcomers, head volleyball coach Heather Mazetis-Fontenot will have plenty of weapons at her disposal to mix and match with for the upcoming season.
Seniors Kelly Wiesmann and Kaylee Nemeth are in an early battle for the starting job at right-side hitter, while junior Sara Mossakowski will be asked to take on an even bigger role after a breakout sophomore season. In addition, with a combined eight years of experience between the trio, Mazeitis-Fontenot is undoubtedly looking to the group as an example to a squad that includes nine freshmen and three transfers.
"The best thing I've seen this preseason is our upper classmen coming to life in terms of knowing their role and teaching the younger players," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "That has had such an impact on how preseason has gone, and in turn has started to create some really good team chemistry. That has been fun to watch."
Mossakowski took a big leap forward from her freshman to sophomore year, playing in 30 matches last year after just making 10 appearances as a rookie. She ranked third on the team a year ago with 2.52 kills per set, and will be one of the Cajuns' top offensive options once again this year; however, Mazeitis-Fontenot also expects her to take on an even bigger role this season with her ability to stay on the court as a six-rotation player.
"Sara has come into preseason on fire and is doing great attacking on the outside," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "But this year we are also counting on her to become a primary passer. We tried work our serve receive around her, and she played six rotations most of the time."
Meanwhile, seniors Nemeth and Wiesmann have spent the preseason in a battle for the starting spot on the right side. Each has experience there, with Wiesmann having won the job out of preseason camp a year ago. She was the top scorer for the Cajuns from that spot before a broken foot sidelined her and opened the door for Nemeth, who never relinquished the job, even after Wiesmann's return.
Wiesmann brings a powerful offensive arsenal to the table and led all Cajun hitters a year ago with a .260 attack percentage while averaging 1.85 kills in 16 matches played.
"Kelly is a two-year starter and brings power. All power. But we are not 100 percent certain where we are going to put her this year, yet," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "She started off on the right side for us last year, and was our top point-scorer before she broke her foot. By the time she came back, Kaylee (Nemeth) had secured that job, so we put Kelly on the left side and she finished the season there."
Nemeth, on the other hand, took full advantage of her opportunity last season by posting career highs in kills (2.12 per set), attack percentage (.213) and blocks (0.61). That success seems to have carried over into this preseason, according to Mazeitis-Fontenot, who likes the versatility and experience Nemeth brings to the lineup.
"Kaylee has had a great preseason," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "The great thing about her is she can play middle or right side, or on the left if we need it. She is such a versatile player for us who just wants to play and has the ability to help us in a variety of ways."
The Ragin' Cajuns have also added a slew of newcomers to the outside ranks, including five freshmen and a junior college transfer Katey Kyle from Blinn College - last year's junior college national championship team.
Originally signing with the University of Houston, Kyle's Blinn Buccaneers finished the year with a 39-3 record last year while she finished the season averaging 1.14 kills and 0.62 blocks per set with a .246 attack percentage.
"She (Kyle) has been a really positive force this preseason, and within our system she is really starting to show that she could get some playing time," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "If she can get her passing down, she will get a lot of playing time."
The coaching staff also has high hopes for the incoming group of freshmen hitters, with newcomers such as Stacy Reilly, Maddie White and Brieanna Hill showing that they could be ready to make an impact this year.
Reilly, whose sister is currently an outside hitter at Wichita State, joins the squad after helping lead Houston's Concordia Lutheran High School to a pair of TAPPS state titles in her prep career.
"I'd be surprised if Stacy is not on the court, because that is my expectation of her abilities and what she can provide for this team," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "When her passing comes alive, I think she is going to be a really great player for us."
Meanwhile, White and Hill each bring desirable qualities to the table.
White brings the ability to play multiple positions to the squad, and knows how to win after being a part of the top-ranked prep team in the country at The Woodlands High School in Texas last year where the Highlanders rolled to a 45-0 season record and the Texas Class 5A state title.
Hill, meanwhile, is learning to play on the right side after playing in the middle throughout her prep career. With her left-handed swing fitting ideally on the right side, the Louisiana coaching staff brought her in with the intention of transitioning her to a position where she is more suited to reach her potential.
"Brieanna could be our dark horse this fall," Mazeitis-Fontenot said. "She is taking to the right side and learning well. I am really excited about her future because I see a lot of good things coming from her every day."
Other freshmen Chloe Cordell and Stephanie Cloke round out the group, with each standing at better than 6-0 and balancing out what looks to be an exceedingly deep position for the Ragin' Cajuns.
Cordell was an all-state performer as a senior in Oklahoma, leading Enid High School to the Class 6A state quarterfinals. Cloke joins the Ragin' Cajuns after lettering an earning all-district honors at Katy Cinco Ranch High School, just outside of Houston.