After nearly eight months on the job, Catholic High of New Iberia softball coach Jennifer Moneaux could exhale.
There was a certain release for Moneaux as she watched the Panthers clinch the District 6-2A championship Tuesday with a 10-5 victory in 10 innings at Delcambre.
“It was great,” Moneaux said. “Delcambre is my alma mater. It felt good.”
What added to the moment was it came in Moneaux’s first season as a head coach as she displayed the ability to maintain the program’s tradition after replacing Mark Suire who left to coach at Centenary.
Not only was Moneaux following Suire, who she played for while at Delcambre and coached with at Catholic, but the Panthers endured a significant overhaul from a more veteran team that reached the Class 2A state regionals in 2015.
“I was nervous because I knew I had big shoes to fill and didn’t know what to expect,” Moneaux said. “I wondered how I was going to challenge the girls to get better, and what I could provide for them.”
With three games remaining in the regular season, Moneaux’s positioned Catholic-New Iberia (17-8, 8-0 in 6-2A) for another postseason run.
The Panthers are in search of a late season boost to their unofficial LHSAA power rating of No. 18 with games Saturday against Class 5A programs Live Oak at noon and Hahnville at 4 p.m. in the St. Amant tournament before closing Tuesday at Class 5A New Iberia.
“I’m happy with how things are going,” Moneaux said. “We’ve clicked well and are on the same page. We work hard for each other, and as long as we continue with that relationship I think we’re going to be OK.”
Catholic’s roster, which features 12 freshmen and sophomores, took a couple of hits before the season with the loss of two projected starters to season-ending injuries.
That left pitcher Maddie Hoag (1.13 ERA) as the team’s lone senior to go along with a solid nucleus of juniors led by shortstop Hannah Smith (.522, four HRs, 33 RBIs), center fielder Destini Guillory (.429, 16 RBIs), first baseman Grace Landry (.377, two HRs, 31 RBIs) and sophomore pitcher-hitter Meghan Robicheaux (.474, 24 RBIs, 1.13 ERA).
“It wasn’t as though anything was set in stone from the previous year,” Moneaux said. “It was like starting over. The first part of the season was focused on gelling, clicking and coming together.”
Through the first 10 games Catholic stood 4-6 — a stretch that included four losses to Class 5A schools.
Since that juncture the Panthers are 13-2, including an 8-0 run to the district title that was capped with an extra-innings victory after trailing Delcambre 3-0 through three innings.
Catholic’s five-run explosion in the 10th was highlighted by a two-run double by Guillory, and Smith’s two-run homer that capped a 6-for-6 performance.
Robicheaux worked into the ninth inning, throwing 130 pitches before Hoag relieved to secure the victory.
“We’ve really clicked the past few weeks,” Moneaux said.
“We know what to expect from each other, and they know their roles. Everyone was into the Delcambre game. You could see it in their eyes how bad they wanted to win it.”