GONZALES — The St. Joseph’s volleyball team believes in facing any challenge as a team no matter where it comes from. On Wednesday, the Redstickers had adversity from within when two starters had to miss their match against St. Amant, but it did not slow them down.
Led by Fran Okpalobi’s 10 kills, St. Joseph’s swept St. Amant 3-0 in a matchup of teams that each went undefeated in their respective Division I districts last season. It was a year that also included the teams splitting a pair of nondistrict meetings, but this time SJA (3-2) won by scores of 25-18, 25-20 and 25-19 at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center.
“In a program, the girls are waiting for their shot to get on the court so I’m very proud of them,” said SJA coach Sivi Miller, whose team played without sisters Abigail and Amber Haynes.
“I thought it was a team effort. I couldn’t ask for any more. They really did well.”
The team effort included 14 digs from Hayley Priest, who helped the Redstickers start strong with all three of her kills in the first game. Julia Welsh had 15 assists, seven digs and three aces while Lexi Barbay (10 digs, four kills) and Caroline Starns (seven kills, two aces) also did their part.
Okpalobi, a senior middle blocker, said the Redstickers were prepared mentally to play their best.
“We wanted to stay together as a team,” Okpalobi said. “If something happens, don’t fall apart. We have the mindset that we’re a team, and no matter who’s not here, we’re all one.”
For St. Amant (6-6), a pair of freshmen led the way. Gracie Duplechein tallied seven kills, eight digs and three assists. Setter Olivia Rome, who found out she was starting an hour before game time, finished with 12 assists and seven digs.
The Gators had defeated Assumption 3-0 on Monday, but Wednesday’s match was disappointing according to coach Allison Leake.
“I thought we played well on Monday, and tonight we looked like a completely different team,” Leake said. “You can’t play any team and make the errors we made. You’re not going to win. Until we correct these errors, this is what will happen.”
The first game was close in the early going. St. Joseph’s led 14-12 and then 18-14 before putting it away 25-18.
Game 2 was tight throughout, but St. Joseph’s took the game’s final four points after leading 21-20. The Gators were called for a net violation, failed to return the ensuing serve, and then had two hitting errors.
The Redstickers built leads of 17-10 and 24-15 in game three. Okpalobi recorded the last kill to give SJA the match-winning point.