After suffering a rough start to its season because of injuries, the Ascension Episcopal volleyball team is hitting its stride at the right time as it looks to earn its first state championship in its seven-year history.
Ascension Episcopal lost six of its eight games with four starters on the bench with injury, but the 2014 Division V state runner-up finished the season perfect in Division V, District 2 and won 12 of its last 13 games.
“I was really proud and pleased with how our team played without our regular rotation with the injuries that we had,” Ascension Episcopal coach Jill Braun said. “It put us behind a little bit, but it is what it is. What you do at the beginning of the season isn’t as important as what you do at the end of the season.”
Their performance late in the season with a healthy squad has earned them the No. 3 seed in the Division V playoffs.
That puts them on the side of the bracket as No. 2 Metairie Park Country Day, which has made the final in the last six years, losing it just once in that time.
Braun said she doesn’t want to think too much about the Division V powerhouse until the Blue Gators have earned the chance to play against them in the semifinals.
“I always have a one-game-at-a-time attitude, in the playoffs,” Braun said. “I don’t like to look too far down the road because this time of the year everybody is posed to play their best. It’s do or die.”
That said, knocking off Country Day and keeping them from making the state championship game for the first time since 2008 would be an accomplishment almost on par with winning the championship itself, and Ascension Episcopal would love to be that team.
“That would be a huge victory,” Braun said. “There were moments in the (state championship match) last year where we left some things on the court that we probably could have done differently. As young as we are this year with five freshmen on varsity, I think everybody would like to see Country Day in their sights to be one of the first teams to keep them from winning a state title.”
In seven years since the inception of the Blue Gators’ volleyball team, Braun and her players have worked hard to establish themselves as a major player in Division V.
She feels like a winning a state final is that last thing the program needs to cement itself as just that.
“The first groups that I coached when I first got to Ascension laid the foundation. Every single year we’ve built another layer establishing Ascension Episcopal as a dominant volleyball force,” Braun said. “We’re right on the cusp of making that dream come true. It would be pretty incredible.”