The Northshore volleyball team has been forced to be nomadic this season with its gym undergoing renovations that stretched into late September.
But a familiar face visited Tuesday night, and that may have been the difference in the match.
Hailey Kirkpatrick, a standout player the past few years at Northshore, gave her former team a pep talk when it was down 2-0 against district rival Fontainebleau. The Panthers looked like a different team in the final three sets and wound up reversing fortune and winning the match 19-25, 21-25, 25-18, 25-13, 15-8.
It was huge turn of events for the homestanding Panthers.
Northshore and Fontainebleau, members of Division I, District 5, have designs on reaching the rapidly-approaching playoffs.
“We just realized that we can win, and we had someone come talk to us who was a big part of this team last year,” junior Hannah Epperley said. “It gave us a different mindset. ... She told us to not be down on ourselves, go get it done.”
Northshore (16-11, 5-2,) is a young team, with no seniors on the roster. They took some lumps earlier in the season, but seem to be finding a rhythm at the right time. They are ranked sixth in the New Orleans Advocate’s Sweet 16 Large School Rankings.
“We never use the excuse of youth as the reason why we win or lose,” Northshore coach Danny Davis said. “These are some of the hardest working kids I’ve ever worked with. They come to work every single day. Granted, Fontainebleau outplayed us in every way in the first two games. For whatever reason, (we) decided to show up and play like (we’re) capable of.”
Fontainebleau (15-13, 5-4) defeated Northshore in straight sets in the teams’ first district match. But not this go around.
The Bulldogs stormed out to a 19-11 lead in the first game, only to watch Northshore climb back into the match at 20-12. Serving dictated the match early but unforced errors around the court evened the total. Fontainebleau hung onto the first set when Mallory Roushar pounded a kill to the Panthers’ backline, and then Madison Brown ended it with a service winner.
The Bulldogs jumped to a 5-2 lead in the second, but Northshore came back to take the lead at 12-7 with solid serving. Fontainebleau eventually took the second-set lead with a couple of tips by Bailey Scott and Rachel Tabor. They won the set when a Northshore kill attempt went long after a Panthers’ timeout attempted to stem the momentum.
Northshore played more alertly in the third set. The Panthers took the lead at 12-11 and continued to pull ahead. The third ended set with a Fontainebleau net violation. By the fourth set, Fontainebleau had lost its rhythm, and Northshore was dictating play.
“I think in the first two sets we really weren’t playing as a team,” Northshore Carly Merry said. “But we didn’t give up. And when we got the win (in the third,) that really motivated us to go get the next two.
Amanda Giardina led Northshore with 16 kills, 28 digs and four blocks.