It’s probably too early in the volleyball season to use words like epic and emotionally charged.
Suffice it to say St. Joseph’s Academy and Mount Carmel Academy played as good an early-season contest as possible Thursday night in front of a loud capacity crowd at SJA.
There were plenty of momentum shifts in the rematch of last year’s Division I state final. Credit the host Redstickers for grabbing the last one to prevail 3-2, winning the decisive fifth set 15-8.
“It was a great match, but you know they were better than us at the net tonight,” Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said. “We’re still working to get better. We’ve yet to play our best match.
“It’s a great game to build on probably for both teams. The best thing about it is we’re going to play again next weekend in a tournament. And the following weekend after that. We’ll see each other three times in September, again in October and hopefully in November (at the state tournament). That’s only going to help both teams get better.”
That may be a scary thought for the rest of the Division I competition. SJA (4-0) remains unbeaten, while MCA (8-1) lost for the first time. SJA won by scores of 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 19-25 and 15-8.
It wasn’t exactly like last year when St. Joseph’s notched a 15-11 fifth-set win to claim a state title. There were some early-season miscues by both teams.
After her team made some critical errors in the fourth set, St. Joseph’s coach Sivi Miller reminded the Redstickers that less errors equals more of a chance to win. SJA raced out to a 14-5 lead in the final set.
“What I told them is that when two great teams are playing each other the team that comes out on top is the one that makes the least amount of errors,” Miller said. “We had to stop our unforced errors.
“This is a great match early in the season and it’s a great match to win. We dug ourselves a hole in the fourth set. Credit Mount Carmel because they took advantage and did what they had to. But we play them again next week,”
Those who came wanting to see some of the state’s premier hitters weren’t disappointed.
Mount Carmel’s Katie Kampen finished with 21 kills, 24 digs and 4 blocks. Kristen Nuss added 24 digs and 13 kills, while Jillian Clark added 41 assists.
St. Joseph’s quadruple threat of Madison Daigle, Katherine Young, Sydney Davis and Hanna Rovira also was impressive. Daigle finished with 16 blocks, 15 kills and 8 digs. Young (15 kills, 11 digs), Davis (10 kills 22 digs, 5 aces) and Rovira (11 kills, 7 blocks) all played key roles.
Elise Gasperecz (51 assists) and libero Melanie Miller (21 digs) also played their roles.
MCA raced out to a 7-1 lead in the first set. The Cubs extended the lead to 11-4. SJA cut the margin one point twice later in the set at 19-18 and 20-19. Eventually Kampen’s kill down the line in front of the SJA bench sealed a 25-21 win.
The next two sets belonged to the Redstickers. The teams traded serving errors and hitting errors at one point in the second set.
An ace by Gasperecz gave SJA its first two-point cushion at 8-6. The home didn’t trail again, but MCA kept it close. A kill and a block by Daigle helped seal a 25-20 win.
Mount Carmel led early in the third set. An ace by Daigle helped SJA claim the lead. The set was a tied several times. A crosscourt kill by Young made it 21-19 on the way to a 25-21 win.
Kampen set a torrid pace in the force set with a couple of aces and early kills. MCA led 6-2 and 13-6 en route to the 25-19 win.
Rovira had a key block at the beginning of the fifth set. A few MCA hitting errors gave SJA the chance to build its lead. Davis and Daigle also contributed kills along the way.
“A bunch of us have played against each throughout the years and it’s awesome to play each other every year,” MCA’s Kampen said. “It’s definitely a momentum game. They (SJA) were awesome. You couldn’t ask for a better match.”
EPISCOPAL 3, NEWMAN 2: Episcopal fought through a lull midway through its volleyball match against Newman rallying for a 3-2 win at Episcopal.
The Knights won the first two games by scores of 25-22 and 25-23. Newman fought back taking games three and four, 25-20 and 25-19. In the deciding game, Episcopal (5-0) came back from a four-point deficit and took the match with a 16-14 win.
Afterward Episcopal coach Briget Melancon was as pleased with the Knights’ determination as she was with the outcome.
“I told the team toward the end, at this point in the season it doesn’t matter how this ends,” Melancon said. “I just wanted them to compete, and that’s what they did.”
Newman (3-5), which is coming off a 2013 season in which it won the Class IV state title, has played a tough opening schedule as it tries to blend in new talent with experienced players.
“I think we’re young and we’re still finding our personality right now,” Newman coach Colleen Loerzel said. “We’re still working on gelling and figuring things out. Its atypical of how we’re playing right now.”
Newman was led by Kathrine Bolyard’s 11 kills and 17 digs. The Greenies also got 17 assists from Julia Nelson and four blocks from Angele McClain.
Episcopal was topped by Kaitlyn Walker, who registered 24 blocks including 14 solos. Erika Grant had eight kills and six blocks, Courtney Gregoire added five kills and eight blocks, and Charlotte Russell 17 assists and seven digs.
MANDEVILLE 3, LAKESHORE 1: In a matchup between rival Mandeville schools, it was the Skippers of Mandeville coming out victorious over Lakeshore 22-25, 25-17, 25-22 and 25-23 Thursday afternoon.
Sam Gomez led Mandeville (4-5) with 13 kills and Kailynn Haley had 11 kills and five aces. Sarah Rinuado and Brandi Bundy each had 18 assists and Ali Leblanc had 18 digs.
Marissa Lecompte led the Skippers with six blocks.
Lakeshore (6-3) was led by Erin Schenck’s 12 kills and 10 kills from Julia Dean. Dean also had seven blocks. Shannon Farrell added 37 assists.
Connecting for nine aces for the match, Mandeville Head Coach Jody Walker said his team’s ability to serve was one of the biggest differences in the game.
“We served tough today,” Walker said. “I was very pleased with the way we served. We have been working very hard on serving tough because people don’t realize that it is one of the easiest ways to score points. It makes it tough on your opponent if you are able to score points when you serve, not just on returns.”
A battle between two evenly matched squads, the Skippers recovered from a 25-22 loss in game one to easily capture game two, 25-17.
Haley said she and her teammates wanted to immediately respond to the game one defeat.
“After that first game our bench said we are not going to go down like this and they kept us in the game mentally,” she said. “It really got us going and we got off to a great start in game two and we never looked back.
“We served the ball well and got into a good flow of getting a lot of kills. We just were able to make adjustments after the first game and come out and play Mandeville volleyball like we want.”
The Skippers took command of the match in the third game, winning 25-22. Mandeville finished the third set on a 6-3 run after the match was tied at 19-19 to take command of the contest.
Fighting off a furious rally that saw the Titans come back from 21-16 to tie the match at 23-23, Mandeville scored the final two points to take the match.
“It was a tough match,” Walker said. “Lakeshore is a very good team. This is a valuable win for us. We feel fortunate to come over here and beat a very good Titan squad.”
Mandeville’s next match will be on Monday when they travel to Northlake Christian while Lakeshore travels to take part in the Dutchtown Tournament on Friday.
“We talked about learning from this experience and applying those lessons this weekend at Dutchtown,” Titans Head Coach Jennifer Hebert said. “If we don’t learn anything, then this is a complete loss. I told my team that we must build up some mental toughness. If we can be better from this loss, then it is going to be a win in the end.”