When two defending state volleyball champions meet on the court, there’s sure to be drama.

There was plenty Tuesday night when Division IV Pope John Paul II hosted Division I Mount Carmel. There was intense net play, incredible digs, service runs, come-from-behind rallies and a little bit of controversy.

When the smoke cleared, it was the host Jaguars who were left standing.

Pope John Paul II defeated Mount Carmel 25-23, 25-18, 23-25, 25-21. PJP is ranked first in the New Orleans Advocate’s small-school rankings. MCA is first on the large-school list.

For the Jaguars, it was bit of a refocusing exercise after a virus swept through several players last week and Pope John Paul II (17-1) lost its first match of the season to St. Thomas More, the state’s top-ranked team. On Tuesday, against the Cubs, however, the Jaguars were aggressive in all aspects.

Still, PJP had to rally in every set to keep up with MCA (12-4.) The Jaguars trailed by five points in the first game, but won it on a powerful kill by Marlena Cutura. PJP fell behind 5-0 to open the second game but closed the game on two unforced errors.

MCA came back to win the third set. A kill by Ellie Holzman close the third game. But PJP answered in the fourth with two kills by eighth-grader Ansley Tullis and a missed tip at the net by MCA to end the match.

“I think in the beginning of the game we didn’t have the right energy, and that gave them a chance to catch up and get back in the third,” PJP middle blocker Sarah Trosclair said.

Sophomore Sydney Neyland said her team got too confident after staking itself to a 2-0 lead.

“We know MCA is such a great team. They wouldn’t have given us anything,” she said. “They kept pushing us.”

PJP assistant Danny Tullis said his team needed to right itself after the tough loss to St. Thomas More in the Catholic League Tournament.

“When you play a team like Mount Carmel, we could play 50 straight and it could be 25 (wins for each,)” Tullis said. “Or it could be 40-10. But you know that either team could win every time.”

MCA coach April Hagadone told her team to “not hold its head down after a match like this.”

“I liked the fight that we showed,” she said. “We looked strong in the third set, but we have to start like that from the very first.”

The match had its drama with the MCA bench being given a red card for apparently arguing a call. Tullis conceded a point to the Cubs in the fourth game on a call match officials initially had given to PJP.

Ansley Tullis led the Jaguars with 16 kills and four aces. Cutura had 18 digs and Neyland had five blocks. Milayne Danna added 49 assists. MCA was led by Holzman and Kristen Nuss, who combined for 39 kills. Kiersten Perry had 24 assists, Kellie Kampen had 21 digs and Marissa Lagasse had 13 blocks.