St. Joseph’s Academy rolled to a 3-0 Division I volleyball regional playoff victory over Hahnville on Saturday, and coach Sivi Miller said her team is peaking as it enters the LHSAA tournament that begins Thursday at Kenner's Pontchartrain Center.
With six seniors and strength at the net, second-seeded SJA (28-13) won by scores of 25-11, 25-15 and 25-13 in the regional contest played at SJA. The Redstickers face the Acadiana-Barbe winner in the state quarterfinals.
Three-time defending state champion Mt. Carmel is the top seed and on the other side of the bracket. Mt. Carmel edged SJA 3-2 in the state title game last season, and the Redstickers say that defeat has inspired them.
“I believe in my girls,” Miller said. “We’ve got the talent, desire and team unity to do very well at state this year. We looked good today. Our blocking was strong, and that allowed us to get into our quick-set offense.”
Sophomore Amber Haynes led SJA with nine kills and one block. Caroline Starns added seven kills and three blocks, and Fran Okpalobi had three kills and two blocks. Abigail Haynes (six digs) and Julia Welsh (13 assists, three aces) had two kills each. Katie Polson added 11 assists. Libero Tess Hiller had seven digs and four aces and drew the praise of Miller for her defensive play.
Stephanie Oubre (12 kills, five digs), Brianna Plaisance (eight digs, five kills) and Bailey Roux (18 assists) led Hahnville (24-16).
“I thought we played OK, but St. Joseph’s is a better team than us,” Hahnville coach Mendi LeBoeuf said. “SJA is big and strong across the front. They force you to do some things with the ball in turning it back that puts you at a disadvantage. This experience of making the regionals for the second straight year can fuel us and help us in the future.”
SJA took a 9-2 lead in the second set on an outside shot by Amber Haynes. SJA’s largest lead was at 22-11.
Hahnville had a 5-3 lead in the third set following Leah Spurgeon’s ace. But with Liz McCormick serving, SJA went on an 11-0 run to pull ahead 14-5. McCormick had two aces, including a serve that hit the net and dropped. Starns had the winning point.
SJA 5-foot-3 senior Abigail Haynes showed her leaping ability with an outside kill in the third set.
“I’ve been working hard on jump training so I can get up there and hit over the block,” she said. “Today we played very well together as a team, and it was just really fun. It’s neat that my sister Amber is also a hitter. Our setters (Polson and Welsh) really keep the offense moving. We’re really excited about going back to state.”