It’s been four years since the Mandeville Skippers have been to the Pontchartrain Center for the state tournament.
Led by junior Sam Gomez, Mandeville got off to a good start in their season-opener.
Ranked No. 7 in the New Orleans Advocate Sweet 16 Large Schools poll, the Skippers defeated Northlake Christian 25-19, 25-18 and 25-14 in the season opener for both teams.
Gomez led the Skippers with 14 kills and five blocks. Emily Boylan added seven and Kailynn Henry had six. Jade Dennis added five aces. Regan Rogers had a game-high 13 digs and Brandi Bundy had 24 assists in the victory.
“It’s a lot more fun to finally be in a match again where it counts,” Gomez said. “You could just tell things were different on the bus ride here because the regular season has finally started.
“Now we get to see if our hard work all offseason has paid off and how things are going to be when we keep score. “Our ultimate goal is to make it to the state tournament and the Pontchartrain Center. I know I want to do it for not just myself, but the seniors on this team, who have helped me these past three years.”
Falling behind 3-0 in Game 1, Mandeville reeled of a 13-2 run to take a 13-5 lead. Northlake responded and the opening game got as close as 18-all before the Skippers responded with a 7-1 run to take the first game.
Breaking out to a 20-11 lead in Game 2, the Skippers easily took the second game.
“It took us a little while to get things going,” Gomez said. “We made some changes in our formations, and I’m in the back row a lot now.
“Once we got going, we found our groove and were able to go get points in bunches to beat a good Northlake team.”
The Wolverines (0-1) were led by senior Blair Kent’s six digs and three aces from Allie Blestel. Eighth-grader Kyren Whittington also had a pair of blocks in her varsity debut.
The Skippers return home for their season opener against defending state champion Pope John Paul on Thursday. The Jaguars are ranked No. 2 in the Advocate Sweet 16 small schools poll.
“The match against Pope is going to be interesting,” Gomez said. “I’ve been excited for that matchup all week long.’
“I just am excited to get going and be in the season. I mean we get to play Pope John Paul on Thursday and then next week we get to play St. Scholastica. Welcome to the regular season.”