Legendary coach Sandy Fussell knew her Assumption Mustangs were going to have their work cut out for them in the state championship game.
The coach was proven right Saturday afternoon, as top-seeded Assumption fell to St. Thomas More in three games 25-13, 25-22 and 25-14 in the Division II volleyball championship game at the Ponchartrain Center in Kenner.
“You have to give a tremendous amount of credit to St. Thomas More,” Fussell said. “They are extremely successful. We knew we had an uphill battle heading into this game, and I thought for the most part we just could never get our offense going and where we wanted it to be.
“(STM) just does everything well and they took away from us what we do well.”
Returning to the state championship game a year after not making it to the state tournament, Assumption (38-7) was led by Hannah Brister with eight kills and Hannah Diggs with four. Caroline Gonzales had 12 digs.
“It was just so difficult at the net (Saturday) against those guys (STM),” AHSs Kevreion Ward said. “Particularly when we tried to block them. We really didn’t know which angle they were coming from at times. They have a lot of great players, particularly up front.”
Tied 6-6 in the opening game, the Cougars used a 6-1 run to take a 12-7 lead en route to the opening-game victory.
STM took control of the match late in Game 2. Tied 22-22, the Cougars scored the final three points to go up 2-0 en route to the three-game sweep.
The win for STM (35-8) is the third consecutive state championship for the Cougars and fourth in the past five years.
“Our team plays very disciplined volleyball,” STM coach Jessica Burke said. “Especially defensively, we play a very focused type of game.”
Most Outstanding Player Sarah Trotter had eight kills and 13 digs to lead St. Thomas More. Catherine Aillet led STM with 10 kills and Maddy Aucoin had seven in the victory. Molly Jacobsen paced the Cougars offensive attack with 21 assists.
“It wasn’t just me out there tonight,” Trotter said. “Everyone out on the court contributed in some way to every kill and every point we scored tonight. You have to have the dig, pass and set up. That takes teammates.”
Burke said her team’s focus was the key.
“Coming in as a No. 3 seed, I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Burke said. “While some other people may have doubted our chances, I think our team never had any doubt that we were going to be playing for the state championship again. We are a young team and we had a lot of underclassman really step up and help us accomplish what we wanted to do before the season started.”