Second-seeded Troy advances at the SBC Volleyball Championships over Louisiana-Lafayette

From the Sun Belt Conference

Second-seeded Troy advanced to the semi-finals of the SBC Volleyball Championships with a 3-1 victory over No. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening match on Wednesday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Trojans dropped the first set but responded with big kills from Blair Winston and Kayla Pickart to come back and win the next three. Winston tallied a match-high 19 kills, while Pickart had 14. Setter Alexandra Alexander aided the attack with a double-double of 52 assists and 10 digs. Courtney Cohen scooped up a match-high 22 digs on the defensive end.

All-SBC Second-Team honoree Mandi Gavin recorded a double-double for ULL with 36 assists and 11 digs. She also contributed with a match-best six blocks and five kills. Lavinia Tataran notched 12 kills for the Ragin' Cajuns to lead the team, and Andrea Hole registered 10 kills and a .300 hitting percentage.

The Trojans improved to 21-11 (10-5 SBC) on the season, while the Ragin' Cajuns finished 16-16 overall and 6-8 in league play.

The teams went point-for-point in the first set, tied 17-17, with neither team leading by more than two. The Ragin' Cajuns broke out to a slight 19-17 edge, and extended it to 22-19 when Troy called a timeout. The Trojans took the next two points and forced ULL to call timeout at 22-21. Still trailing 23-21, Troy grabbed the next two after a block and service ace to tie it, 23-23. The Ragin' Cajuns responded with a kill by Kelly Wiesmann and an ace by Taylor Meade to take the set, 25-23.

In the second game, ULL started ahead 7-6 when it reeled off three in a row to lead 10-6. After Troy cut the deficit to 12-11, the Ragin' Cajuns went on another three-point spurt to go up 15-11. The Trojans punched back with a big 7-0 run with Cohen serving to grab the lead, 18-15. Troy didn't allow ULL to get any closer and won the set, 25-20.

Troy grabbed an 11-8 lead in the third frame and pushed it up to 17-12 after big attacks from Winston. Still down 18-13, the Ragin' Cajuns won three consecutive points on Caitlyn Auxilien's serve to get back in it at 18-16. Troy answered with big blocking to extend its lead back up to 23-19 and finished it 25-22 after a kill by Pickart.

The Trojans held an early 10-7 lead in the fourth and created a little distance at 14-10 on a kill by Pickart. ULL inched back in it, down 15-13, but more strong attacks from Pickart got the Troy lead back up to 19-13. The Trojans kept the momentum going and finished the set, 25-21.

The winner of the tournament earns the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. All matches are streamed live for free on