The volleyball match of the regular season on the north shore lived up to the hype.
A battle between the two top-ranked teams in the LHSAA’s unofficial Division IV ratings and the top two teams in the New Orleans Advocate Small Schools poll, top-ranked Pope John Paul II defeated second-ranked Archbishop Hannan 26-24, 21-25, 25-16 and 25-22 Wednesday night in Slidell.
Camille Dedeaux led PJP (29-2) with 20 kills while eighth-grader Ansley Tullis had 13 kills and four aces. Marlena Cutura had 17 digs and Milayne Danna had 56 assists.
“This definitely had that state-championship match kind of feel,” Dedeaux said. “We came out and started well in Game 1 and were able to take an early lead. We lost Game 2, but were able to keep our mental focus and do what we needed to do to beat a really good Hannan team. To be honest, we really got mad after losing Game 2 and that just inspired us to come out with that much more fire and stay focused to win the match.”
Hannan was led by sophomore Hailey Cabeceiras’ 24 kills, three aces and 18 digs. Freshman Allee Morris added 13 kills and eight blocks. Danielle Loup had 23 digs and Tatum Ballard added 37 assists.
“This is what big games are supposed to be like,” Ballard said. “You could tell that it was two really good teams out there battling and we just came up a little short tonight. There was a lot of hype around this game all week and it for sure lived up to it.
“I know we could have done more to try and get the win tonight. To me, it all comes back to energy. When our energy was up, we were able to play well and you could tell on the scoreboard. We are a young team and we learned a lot tonight, and hopefully we can take the lessons learned and use them as we approach the postseason in what we hope will be a deep run.”
The much anticipated matchup started with Pope John Paul breaking out to an early 5-1 lead in Game 1. Hannan took a brief 16-15 lead midway through and tied the game at 24-24 before the Jaguars scored the final two points of the game to take a 1-0 lead.
Getting off to a better start in Game 2, Hannan (27-6) jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead on PJP and never trailed in the match en route to the 25-21 win.
Pope John Paul II answered a game later, breaking out to a blistering 11-4 start and saw its lead balloon to as much as 21-10 as they took Game 3 25-16.
The game also served as the second annual “Block Out Cancer” event with all proceeds from the game benefiting the local chapter of the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer center. Officials at Pope John Paul announced after the match that more than $4,000 was raised on the night.