Zachary coach Madeline Gugich knows her young volleyball team is improving, and she found out by just how much Monday night against top-ranked St. Joseph’s Academy. Gugich’s team lost to SJA in three straight games (9-25 17-25 22-25), but the improvement is definitely there.

The game was SJA’s “Geaux Pink Game,” and the large crowd was raising funds to benefit Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center.

“Started off the night a little slow, but we finished strong,” Gugich said after the match. “Considering it was the ‘pink game’ night and SJA had a full house, my girls stepped up their game.”

The Lady Broncos dropped to 13-10 overall and 6-2 in Division I, District II while SJA improved to 30-2 and 7-0. The only two district losses have been to St. Joe’s for Gugich’s team.

“I am very proud of them,” said Gugich, who is in her fourth year at ZHS. “We could of easily walked in there and been defeated after the first game. But we stayed positive, not just the girls on the court but on the bench, as well.”

The season so far has mirrored the match with SJA: a slow start due to losing 10 seniors to graduation and several key players to injury. The squad has two seniors, middle Keandra Williams and setter Nyka Martin.

But the team has improved with experience, with players returning from injury and with just a few key matches and the playoffs looming.

“As of now, I’m very happy with the way we have been playing,” Gugich said. “It was a little bumpy at the beginning of the season. I have high hopes for my Lady Broncos’ end-of-the-season play. Once teams make it to the playoffs, it’s anyone’s game to win. I am wanting it to be us this year.

“Playing a team like SJA only makes us better. Instead of seeing the negative of having to play them twice, we see the positive. The first time we played them, we didn’t do too hot. But this performance shows we only got better after we played them the first time.”

Vikings defense dominates

Northeast High is off to its best football start in at least a decade, and defense is a big reason for the team’s 6-0 start. The undefeated Vikings limited Capitol Charter to five first downs and 117 yards and forced five turnovers in a 28-13 victory last Friday. In their past five games, the Vikings have given up just 26 points.

K.J. Robinson rushed for two touchdowns and recovered a Capitol fumble, and Jarman Bradford caught an 8-yard touchdown pass and set up another score with a 53-yard punt return. Marqueon Minor rushed 19 times for 67 yards and completed 10 of 20 passes for 104 yards. As a safety, he had two interceptions.

Northeast improved to 2-0 in District 6-2A and will travel to Episcopal (4-2, 0-2) to take on the Knights on Friday.

Zachary edges Central

The ninth-ranked Broncos edged District 4-5A rival Central 22-21 Friday when senior quarterback Lindsey Scott connected with sophomore Shyron White on a two-point conversion with just 59 seconds remaining in the game.

Central scored a play earlier when Scott hit senior Maurice Flowers with a backdoor screen for a 27-yard touchdown and coach David Brewerton opted to go for the win instead of playing for overtime.

“We have a two-point play that we’ve practiced twice a week since May,” Brewerton said. “The way we played, I felt like there was no need to prolong the game. We knew we could run that play.”

Zachary battled back from a 14-0 deficit. Scott passed for 134 yards, including two touchdown passes to Douglas Coleman for 7 and 30 yards.

The Broncos improved to 6-1 overall and 3-0 in district and host Walker (0-7, 0-3) Friday.

ZHS CC in Walker meet

The Broncos boys and girls competed in the 13th annual Varsity Sports/Walker Shootout last weekend, with the boys finishing 18th out of 31 teams and the girls 18th of 24 teams. Next up for the Broncos is the Metro meet on Nov. 10 at Highland Road Park.

Northeast falls to U-High

The Northeast volleyball team fell to University 3-0 in a District 2, Division 4 match last week. The Lady Cubs won 25-6, 2-6 and 25-15 and Northeast fell to 2-15 overall and 1-4 in district.

NMS Braves earn win

The Northwestern Middle School Braves defeated Central 34-20 last week and close out their season Monday at Livonia.

Howard Arceneaux cover Zachary sports for The Advocate Zachary Plainsman. Email him at harceneaux@theadvocate.com.