The University of Louisiana volleyball team opens the 2010 season on Friday, Aug. 27 at the Comfort Suites SHSU Invitational in Huntsville, Texas. Head coach Heather Mazeitis, who is returning for her third season, sat down with RaginCajuns.com to preview the season.

Read the ultoday.com interview with Coach Mazeitis here.

UL will play four matches in Huntsville, opening the season against Marist at 11:30 a.m. on Friday. Later in the day, the Cajuns will play Eastern Michigan at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Louisiana takes on Prairie View A&M at 2 p.m., before closing out the tournament with host Sam Houston State at 7 p.m.

RaginCajuns.com: This year you have nine newcomers. What has been the biggest challenge bringing in so many new people to campus?

Mazeitis: I think the biggest challenge is making sure that from top-to-bottom we have quality players as well as quality individuals and students. We have development to do with some of our players and I really enjoy doing that. With the group we have returning, I think we can make the transition easier.

RaginCajuns.com: Fall camp concluded last Friday. How did camp go and what were some of the highlights?

Mazeitis: In 15 years of coaching, this is the most fun I've had. The team has gelled together and they are being led, not only by our seniors, but by our freshmen as well. Our newcomers have a significant voice in this team and are not afraid of saying what they need. We are seeing the team rely on each other which helps generate accountability within our squad. I think that we can't just rely upon our upperclassmen. Blair Claypoole has been solid during camp and we are very excited to have her. I told my assistants that Dayna Wiesmann was the surprise of camp. We have seen her play and really enjoyed getting to know her this summer. She has been someone that not only will see playing time, but has brought good leadership to this group.

RaginCajuns.com: With many newcomers, how important is it for the team to come together early in the season?

Mazeitis: We have quite a few newcomers, but the good thing is they are not all freshmen. A freshman such as Lavinia Tataran, who is from Romania, has come on strong this past week. She had to get her sand legs out from under her because she played outdoor volleyball the past two years. I think as they grow as a team, they also grow as a group. We've had classroom sessions where we discuss character issues such as loyalty and honesty. The discussions of what we expect of them and what they expect of each other have been tremendous.

RaginCajuns.com: There are veterans with solid experience. How you expect them to contribute to the program this year?

Mazeitis: I think our veterans are starting to expect more of themselves. What I expect of them doesn't matter, if what they expect of themselves has not risen from last year. With the turnover that we've had, they now see that this is a completely different group. Their level of expectation is to be successful as people and student-athletes in the classroom and on the court - that's what we've tried to hone-in on this camp. We can be successful as long as they hold each other accountable, keep the lines of communication open and stay together as a group.

RaginCajuns.com: How does the non-conference tournament schedule help prepare your team for the rigors of Sun Belt competition?

Mazeitis: When you play four matches in two days, you need your bench. The weekend tournaments will give me a chance to see who our gamers are. I know who our practice kids are, but we'll find out the gamers during these tournaments. I think the non-conference schedule gives us a peek into what kind of bench we have. This season we are excited about having the Ragin' Cajuns Invitational back at Earl K. Long Gym. Last year, we didn't have it and it was canceled in 2008 because of Hurricane Gustav.

RaginCajuns.com: What will be the team's biggest asset this year?

Mazeitis: On the court, our biggest asset is our size. We are very tall this year. We have some great defensive players. Hopefully, we will excel in the blocking and defensive categories. Off the court, this group has gelled and we have many people stepping up to be heard...that is a component that was unexpected, but is welcome.


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