No current player on the Central volleyball team has played in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/Allstate Sugar Bowl Volleyball State Tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
The team’s mission in 2014? To change that.
“We set the goal at the beginning of the year,” Central coach Michele LeBouef said. “I’m hoping we surpass that goal and win while we’re there.”
In 2011 and 2012, the Wildcats fell in the bidistrict round of the playoffs. Last season, they made it to the regional round, beating Carencro before being knocked out by Ben Franklin.
With the No. 8 spot in Division II, the team’s highest seeding in four years, Central only needs to win one game to make it to the Pontchartrain Center.
The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 22-11 record and a 9-2 mark in Division II, District 4. LeBouef said her team is hitting its stride at the perfect time as it heads into the postseason.
Central opened up the season with a loss to Parkview and went 8-6 before a five-set loss to University High changed the course of the Wildcats’ season. After the loss, LeBouef said, her players decided they didn’t want to lose anymore. Then, Central went on a nine-game winning streak, beat Division I teams like East Ascension, Dutchtown and Denham Springs, and went nearly three weeks without a loss.
“We started winning games against 5A teams we haven’t won in the past,” LeBouef said. “We’re turning the corner winning five- set, season-changing matches.”
Central has five seniors, seven juniors, six sophomores and four freshmen. The team has a large group of underclassmen, but LeBouef said what makes Central a threat to opponents is its hunger and fight for a win.
“They’re young and inexperienced, but they’re willing to step on the court and try to take out the team across the net,” LeBouef said.
“We’ve upset a lot of teams that didn’t expect to be upset by us. We’ve played in some big-time games, and that’s given us confidence going into the playoffs.”
Leading the way for Central is outside hitter sophomore Jordan Stephens, middle blocker senior Brandy Wilson, freshman middle blocker Natalie Cox, junior outside hitter Kelsey Cooke. With the No. 8 seed, the Wildcats have a bye and play the winner of the New Orleans-based Cabrini and Landry-Walker bidistrict game.
“They’re excited, hungry and wanting to win,” LeBouef said. “Not a lot of people expected us to pull a No. 8 seed and a first-round bye. They’re ready to walk in and upset and beat whoever is on the other side (of the net).”
Central hasn’t played neither Cabrini nor Landry-Walker this season, but LeBouef has watched both and is focused on preparing for whatever team Central will face in the regional.
“Cabrini is defense-oriented, and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” LeBeouf said. “Landry-Walker has a high-powered offense and can put the ball away.
“We will have our match made for us for sure, no matter who we play.”