CENTRAL — Central’s Lady Wildcats were at their best with their backs to the wall in a crucial Division II, District 4 matchup with St. Michael the Archangel on Thursday, coming from behind in all three sets to take a hard-fought victory.
None of the sets ended in the regulation 25 points. Central overcame a 15-10 deficit and fought off a late St. Michael run to take the first set 27-25 and claimed the second and third sets by 26-24 margins.
Senior Brandy Wilson ended sets two and three with service aces, a feat she said she had done in summer league but not in a regular high school season.
“I have confidence in my serve,” Wilson said, “and today my team was amazing. I rolled my ankle, and I was a little off, but my teammates picked me up and encouraged me.”
One of those teammates was sophomore Jordan Stephens, who had the kind of standout day her team has come to expect. She collected 17 kills, six digs and a block while playing only on the front row.
“Jordan was our go-to player last year and she’s playing well, and Brandy (Wilson) is playing smart and people are starting to notice her,” Central coach Michele LeBoeuf said.
Stephens said that coming from behind is nothing unusual for the Wildcats.
“Sometimes it takes a while for us to get in our groove,” she said. “Coach just tells us to hit smart and try to get good sets.”
The Lady Warriors knew they were facing a heavy hitter in Stephens, and they forced her to work hard for her points. Lauren Goff and Savannah Wininger led a strong defense that had several blocks and tipped a number of balls that allowed St. Michael’s back row defenders make plays. The two scored points on three straight blocks in the first game to give the Warriors a 23-21 lead.
“Our libero, Amari Bellard, was also outstanding today,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “She had 20 digs, and Shelby Broussard helped us with some tough serving.
“We expected it to go four or five games, but it came down to one or two plays in each game. A missed serve or big block — one play made a difference. It was a great environment, but it just wasn’t going to be for us today.”
LeBoeuf has been forced to make some lineup changes and felt that contributed to her team’s slow start in the first two sets.
“One of our starters went down early last week, and it took a minute for us to adjust, but I think Kelsey Cooke and Natalie Cox, who’s a freshman, really stepped up today.”
Kaitlyn Cooke led Central with 15 assists and seven digs. Heather Clement had 11 digs and had some nice service runs, including two aces.
“Today was fun. This is what volleyball is supposed to be like,” LeBoeuf said.
Proceeds from the game and other activities will be donated to the local Smile Delivery organization, which provides gifts for hospitalized children and their parents.