Each of the past six seasons, the Country Day volleyball team has walked away from the Pontchartrain Center with a state volleyball trophy.
The Cajuns will look to make it seven straight this week.
Country Day, the No. 2 seed, opens play in the Division V tournament at 10:50 a.m. Thursday when it plays No. 7 Episcopal of Acadiana.
“Anytime you go into the Pontchartrain Center, there’s pressure,” Country Day junior Jenna Ibieta said, “especially having the reputation we have. But our goal is not to worry about our the past teams. We just have to come into the gym and play as this year’s team.”
It’s a message that Country Day coach Julie Ibieta (Jenna’s mother) has tried to instill in her team every year of its current dynasty.
“We have really looked at each team as a new team, a new group,” Ibieta said. “We try to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. It’s truly a different personality with different leadership on each team. Each year is a brand-new year, and they just want to win.”
So what makes this team different from some of the title teams in the past.
“In most of our years, we have been pretty tall,” Ibieta said. “Our offense has been our strength in the past. Our offense is still doing a nice job. But we’re not as tall. Our defense has been incredible for us. While we have all facets of the game going, we have a different style.”
Ibietta, a junior setter and senior libero Maddie Leger are two of the Cajuns leaders.
Ibietta, who is committed to Tulane, has 948 assists, 268 digs and 238 kills. Leger has 758 digs and 42 aces.
McGehee is the top seed in the field. Country Day and McGehee didn’t meet this season.
“There’s always pressure for any team, but we feel we can overcome that,” Leger said. “We try to just take that and play the best we can.”
Freshman Caroline Conwille and junior Samantha Henderson are the middle blockers.
Senior Dionne St. Etienne and freshman Alex Smith are the outside hitters.
Senior Juliette Cimini is the right-side hitter and sophomore Leigh Maher and junior Cece Tyson are defensive specialists for a team seeking its 10th title overall. The Cajuns also won three straight titles in the 70s.
“It never gets old,” said Leger, who has been on the team since she was a freshman. “Once you have that feeling one time, you’re motivated and want to win it again. It’s always my goal.”
Ibieta is hoping her team’s experience will help as it looks to haul a seventh trophy from Kenner back to Metairie.
“We have quite a few who have played in the tournament and know what to expect,” Ibieta said. “We hope that’s an advantage for us. We have a lot of experience, and they are hungry to win.”