ST. AMANT —Something had to give when Division I St. Amant squared off with Division III University High in a nondistrict volleyball match Thursday at the Gold Dome.
Both teams were wrapping up busy weeks, University having won three matches by 3-0 scores and St. Amant coming off two straight victories, also 3-0 wins.
It took five sets, but the homestanding Gators finally started strong in the fifth and cruised to a 15-7 win and a 3-2 advantage in the match.
Through the first two sets, it looked as though the Cubs would be making an early exit and would be home in time for the crucial football game between U-High and Parkview. Making more mistakes than usual and unable to contain St. Amant’s offensive attack, they dropped the first two sets by 25-19 scores and were on the edge of defeat.
Then, with the score tied at eight in the third set, U-High (20-8) mounted a comeback. Behind the serving of Marygrace Constantin, a kill by Lindsay Flory and two by Destiny Ephrom, the Cubs ran off five straight points. Ephrom added two more kills on overset balls by the Gators, and Constantin had a kill of her own to push the lead to 18-13.
St. Amant (17-7) came back to tie it at 23, but U-High scored twice more, winning the final point on a kill by Terri Drake.
“We played really well in the first two sets,” St. Amant coach Allison Didier Leake said, “but I expected a four- or five-set match. Our offense and defense were really well-run, and after the first two sets, I thought maybe we could sneak away with a win in three.
“We had some lapses in the third and fourth sets, and we fought so hard to come back in the third set that we relaxed a little too much in the fourth. We quit going after the ball.”
The turning point of the fourth set came on a 9-0 U-High run with freshman Jill Jones serving. During the run, Jones had two aces and a diving backhand save of a St. Amant kill. Flory and Constantin each added a kill as the Cubs turned a 9-7 deficit into a 16-9 advantage and went on to take the set 25-17.
St. Amant regained the momentum in the fifth set, jumped out to a 9-3 lead and was never really threatened, clinching the set 15-7 on a closing block by Maggie Duplechein and an ace by Maci Marchand.
Victoria Howell had a kill and served a five-point run in the final set. Blair Rambin came off the bench and had a key block and a kill on two consecutive points.
Players for both teams put up sparkling numbers. Drake led the visitors with 21 kills, 17 assists and 15 digs. Flory had 14 kills, 25 assists and 10 digs. Libero Karyn Moore contributed 20 digs and an ace.
Courtney Gremillion had 13 kills and 20 aces for the Gators, along with several well-placed dinks.
Maggie Duplechein had 12 kills, 19 assists and three aces, while her sister Alli added nine kills and nine blocks.
St. Amant libero Kara Gremillion, whom Leake calls “as good as anyone in the state,” had 24 digs.
“We had a lot going on, with fall break and a big football game tonight, and it was the third set before we focused on what we came here to do, what we needed to do right now. We just took the first two sets off,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “Volleyball’s a roller coaster game with ups and downs, and I’m proud we came back and went five sets against a good team.”