SCOTT — Moving into the fourth set up 2-1 on Ponchatoula, Acadiana coach Celie Leblanc said she had her team focused on not getting to a fifth set.
“We finished the second and third and then that fourth set has been our biggest challenge this year,” LeBlanc said. “We have lost five matches in the fifth set when we’re up 2-1 going to the fourth. Tonight that was our motive going into the fourth. We knew we needed to take care of business.”
The Rams jumped out to a 4-0 lead and led 20-14 when Ponchatoula stormed back, eventually tying the fourth set at 24. That’s when LeBlanc said fate was in Acadiana’s favor.
Acadiana’s Kennedi Smith found herself at the net with the Ponchatoula big hitters in the back row. Smith had kills on the next two points, giving the Rams a 26-24 win in the fourth set and a 3-1 win over the Wave.
“They had their big hitters in the back and one of my stronger hitters in the front row,” LeBlanc said. “It worked out to get her the ball so she could put it away. She did just that. She did exactly what we needed to do.”
Smith said she knew her team would get the job done in the fourth set, but she was determined to get the final two points.
“It’s a team effort,” Smith said. “No one player can do it alone. I was determined for everybody. The plan was to just put the ball down. I wasn’t thinking about the fifth set.”
The Rams dropped the first set 25-16 after Ponchatoula jumped out to a commanding 16-1 lead. Smith said the raucous crowd from Ponchatoula was “overwhelming and scary.” LeBlanc said she thinks her team suffered from a bit of stage fright.
“We’re really young, and we never experience a gym so loud,” LeBlanc said. “Ponchatoula brought in a huge crowd, and we gave up a lot of points in that first set. They took advantage in the first set. We were beating ourselves.”
LeBlanc said she told the team after the first set to relax and just give effort. The Rams responded by opening up a 12-1 lead in the second set, eventually winning 25-22. LeBlanc said no matter the score, Ponchatoula wouldn’t go away.
“You have to give them a lot of credit,” LeBlanc said. “They were fighting to the end, even on the last point. They were fighting their butts off and playing a phenomenal game. I knew we weren’t doing the best that we could do.”
Acadiana doesn’t sub much, playing the same six girls for the vast majority of the match. LeBlanc said a lot of her bench players don’t have much varsity experience. She admitted to being a little nervous at the end of the fourth set, but she said the goal for this team is always to just play hard.
“I knew skills and everything would come into play, but the effort had to be there and the belief had to be there,” LeBlanc said. “We came out in the second set, and we believed in ourselves. We used the energy, and our crowd started stepping it up.
“Our goal this year was not to win a certain amount of games or score a certain amount of points. Our goal is to give 110 percent effort every single game. Yes, you get nervous, but we knew we had a goal and we weren’t going to give up.”