As they battled through the afternoon for every point and every rally, the Central Wildcats and the Belle Chasse Cardinals were hard to tell apart.
Both took the court wearing nearly identical black-on-black uniforms. They, they matched each other toe-to-toe.
But in the end, the Wildcats left the Pontchartrain Center with hopes dashed following a hard-fought three-game match against Belle Chasse. The Cardinals won 25-11, 25-23, 25-17 to earn a spot in today’s Division II semifinal match against three-time defending state champion and No. 1 seed St. Thomas More. Central finished the season (37-7).
While her players left their locker room wiping away tears, Wildcats coach Michele LeBouef was proud of her team’s effort in its first trip to the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
“I think it was a learning experience for us more than anything, our first time being here,” LeBouef said. “This was our first time seeing this level of the game. And when we get into this level, everybody’s good. I think what happened to us was, we’d play three or four points really really well, then we’d play three or four points not really really well. That’s kind of what nipped us in the bud.”
The Wildcats were led by Jordan Stephens with 17 kills. Madaline Tarver added nine kills and four blocks. Kaitlyn Cooke had 47 assists and Kathryn Mancuso had 20 digs.
Belle Chasse got 19 kills from Toni Corso and 18 from Hayley Barbazan. Both also finished with 24 digs. Emily Morgan had 38 assists.
St. Thomas More (42-1), the No. 1 seed in the bracket and the clear favorite to win its fourth consecutive state title, swept No. 8 seed Academy of Our Lady 25-11, 25-23, 25-17 to advance to Friday’s semifinal round. In the other semifinal, No. 3 seed Assumption will face No. 7 seed Cabrini at 4:30 p.m. The Mustangs (34-7) defeated No. 6 seed St. Scholastica (22-10) in a five-game match, 23-25, 25-18, 15-25, 15-13. Assumption, which has won eight titles (the last in 2009) was the runner-up to St. Thomas More last year. Cabrini outlasted No. 2 seed Ben Franklin 23-25, 25-19, 25-17, 18-25, 15-11 to advance to the semifinals.