ZACHARY — They say you should never judge a book by its cover. The same can be said about volleyball matches that start with an easy first-set victory.
Just ask St. Michael the Archangel. The Division III Warriors were impressive while beating Division I Zachary 25-15 in the first set.
Three sets later, the Zachary players were exchanging high-fives after claiming a 3-1 nondistrict victory Wednesday night at ZHS.
“I’m really proud of my girls tonight,” Zachary coach Madeline Blanchard Gugich said. “As a team, I think we learned a lot. We didn’t have a lot of energy in that first set, and we learned how our energy produces momentum.
“Once we turned it on as a team and not just individuals, we put it all together. And we found a way to put our foot on the gas and keep it there.”
The Broncos (11-4) erased a five-point deficit and won the second set 27-25. After a 25-13 win over the Warriors (11-5) in set 3, Zachary found itself trailing again. St. Michael led 15-8. But the Broncos kept pounding away.
An ace by libero Dreona Clayton that landed just inside the back line gave ZHS a 25-24 lead. And then a kill by Leanne Sorrel ended it at 26-24.
“I knew we needed to push points and be confident and I was confident in my serve,” Clayton said. “That (back-line serve) is always a give or take opportunity, and it was a chance I was willing to take. I’m just really proud of my team. We came together and worked to get this one.”
Clayton finished with 20 digs and three aces. Ana Williams contributed 15 kills, while Sorrel added 11 kills, 18 assists and 16 digs.
Savannah Wininger led St. Michael with 12 kills, 10 digs and two aces. Amari Bellard had 23 digs and five kills, while Sadie Edmonston added 15 assists, 8 digs and 4 kills.
The nondistrict contest is significant for the coaches. Blanchard-Gugich is a former St. Michael player and assistant coach for SMHS coach Rob Smith.
The Warriors opened up a 7-1 lead in the first set and were never challenged. Zachary’s reaction time on some offensive and defensive sequences seemed slow. The Broncos picked it up in Set 2. St. Michael led by as much as five points, but it was closer than that most of the way. Williams contributed some key kills. Lauren Kinchen made it 26-25. St. Michael was then called for two hits on a return to end it.
Zachary controlled Set 3, scoring 13 of the final 15 points to win 25-13. Williams provided some crucial kills and in Set 4 teamed with Candace Baity on a huge block before Clayton and Sorrel closed things.
“We missed a lot serves at key moments, and we missed back-to-back serves,” Smith said. “That kid in the middle (Williams) is big and strong and she played above us. We built our schedule knowing our district has some strong middles and this helps us prepare.”