DONALDSONVILLE — How a team garners momentum in a volleyball contest can often be hard to explain.
Once St. John-Plaquemine got it, the Eagles never let it go. After rallying for a dramatic 27-25 win in the first set St. John ousted rival Ascension Catholic 3-0 in Division V, District 3 action Tuesday night at ACHS.
The Eagles (21-6, 3-2) won the final two sets 25-17 and 25-12 to draw closer to the first-place Bulldogs (15-12, 4-1) in league play. Both teams donned pink jerseys for the contest that also served as a Breast Cancer Awareness fundraiser.
“We changed a few things up defensively since the last time we played them,” St. John coach Chase Mancuso said. “We knew we needed to be better in the back row. I thought it really helped tonight.
“(The Bulldogs) can pick up and tip the ball well to the right spots. Any time you play these guys (Ascension Catholic) they’re going to compete.”
Payton Passantino led St. John with 14 kills and eight digs, while Keri Yarbrough added 13 kills. Carlee Smith (15 digs) and Claire Pearce (34 assists) were other leaders for the winners.
Rae’Shaun Malancon led ACHS with eight kills and seven digs. Grace Villa and Settoon each added four kills for the Bulldogs, who were plagued by hitting errors and wound up with a 0.97 hitting percentage as a team.
ACHS coach Chandra Ewen said losing that first set her team was seemingly in control of impacted the outcome. The loss of setter Michayla Spano to a knee injury didn’t help matters either. Spano came into the contest with 565 assists.
“We had game point and we let them comeback and we did really foolish things in those moments,” Ewen said. “I don’t want to make excuses, but that is not how we normally play. This is homecoming week. I don’t think our focus was there. It was a a bad night.”
St. John led early but then rallied from the 24-20 deficit in the first game. Back-to-back hitting errors for the Bulldogs helped St. John close out its 27-25 set one win.
The Eagles also trailed in Set 2. Any attempts ACHS made to take Passantino out of the equation were negated by Yarbrough. At one point in the second set, Yarbrough factored into seven straight points with a series of kills and an ace.
“It’s always big when you come back and win a close one,” Yarbrough said, referring to the first set. “It always builds out momentum. It’s really a team thing. I like to lead my team the best I can and when I get the opportunity I try to take advantage of it.”
Yarbrough’s efforts helped the Eagles erase a five-point Ascension Catholic lead. St. John scored six of the final seven points to close its 25-17 win in set two.
St. John never trailed in the final set. An ACHS hitting error gave the Eagles a 14-8 lead. The Bulldogs battled back to within three by scoring three straight. But from there, St. John scored 11 of the final 12 points to close out the victory.