Eighth-seeded Episcopal got stronger as the match wore on and the Knights wore down No. 9 Riverside Academy 3-0 in Division IV regional playoff action Monday night at EHS.
Episcopal (24-11) got 13 kills and 10 blocks from Erika Grant and won 25-23, 25-18 and 25-13. Riverside Academy (25-13) was topped by Tyjah Greenup’s seven kills.
With the win, Episcopal accomplished one of its major goals, earning a berth in the state volleyball tournament that begins Thursday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center. It is the Knights’ first tourney appearance since 2008.
“This has been a goal of (the team) for three years,” EHS coach Briget Melancon said. “They locked in this year, and said this is the year we’re making it.
“We talk about big goals, and also the smaller goals it takes to get there. We’ve focused really hard on one game at a time.”
The Knights advance to face top-seeded Pope John Paul II, a 3-0 winner over Catholic-New Iberia. Pope John Paul defeated Episcopal 3-0 in the regional round last year. The quarterfinal match is scheduled for 10:50 a.m. Thursday.
It all started with strong defensive play against Riverside. In addition to Grant’s numbers, Episcopal’s Kaitlyn Walker had 12 blocks and five digs, and Charlotte Russell had 16 assists and four digs.
“If we weren’t blocking it, we were digging it,” Melancon said. “We’re working on staying consistent at the net so the back row knows what to do. I felt like it was a strong defensive showing.”
Riverside, which advanced to the semifinals last season, got 13 digs from Maddie Duhon, 14 assists from Abby Bourgeois and five kills each from Briley Becker and Sydney Joseph.
The Rebels were unable to keep up with Episcopal as the match wore on.
“I wouldn’t say we got down (after the first set),” Riverside coach Chelsey Nicholas said. “We just veered away from the game plan.
“When you go away from what you’ve planned to do, you’re going to lose a game.”
The first game was tight throughout. Episcopal led by four twice in the early going, and then by five before Riverside rallied to pull within 22-21. Episcopal closed out the 25-23 win on a block by Grant and a serve into the net from Riverside’s Joseph.
In Game 2, Episcopal led 14-13 before pulling out to a 20-14 lead. Riverside never got closer than five points before falling 25-18. With the Knight’s trailing 4-3 in Game 3, Episcopal scored seven straight points on Russell’s serve, and went on to close out the match with a 25-13 win.