St. Michael the Archangel coach Rob Smith couldn’t help but smile, even though his team lost its final set at the McKinley Jamboree.
“It’s very different playing early in the day,” Smith said. “The energy and the feel were quite different. We didn’t bring our energy with us.
“We had a great summer and accomplished some good things. The nice thing about this event is: first of all, it doesn’t count on your record. Second, it comes at you fast, and it’s frantic. It tests your limits.”
Some teams tested their limits while others exceeded them during the annual volleyball jamboree Wednesday at Louisiana School for the Deaf. Though the abbreviated contests fell behind schedule, the enthusiasm and crowds didn’t lag until the end of the night.
One big difference this year was a scheduling change that put the area’s top private schools playing in early afternoon pool play. That didn’t keep traditional power St. Joseph’s Academy from pulling off a modest surprise.
The Redstickers’ varsity and JV teams combined to go 6-0 in separate pool action. SJA’s varsity was 3-0 in Pool A, including a 25-6 victory over Episcopal. Not bad for a Division I runner-up from a year ago that graduated a tall, talented group of seniors.
“It’s the beginning of the season, and we’re trying to see who is going to step up and own positions,” SJA coach Sivi Miller said. “We’re basically replacing our whole offense from last year.
“We’ve been working hard on block and transition, and I liked what the girls did at the net. On offense, things need to happen quicker, but we’ve been working on our system to make it work. And it can only get better.”
To a degree, it actually got better in Pool B as the SJA JV finished 3-0, ousting two playoff teams from a year ago in Division V Dunham (26-24) and Division II Central (25-20) while going 3-0.
Division I Baton Rouge High served up a surprise for first-year coach Dayna Kohn by going 3-0 in Pool C, including a 25-23 win over Division IV power University High.
“We did better than I expected,” Kohn said. “Yesterday, we went over some things and worked on specifics we needed to get better at.
“And you know what, they came out and put it all together today. We’re young, but if we can continue on this path, we can have a good season. This is exciting.”
But when it came to youth, no one had Mentorship Academy beat. The Sharks made their varsity debut and went 0-3 but could count a competitive 25-19 loss to LSD.
The biggest winner in Pool D was Walker. The Wildcats limited two opponents to less than 10 points while going 3-0.
“Most of the girls we have are playing different roles than they had last year,” Walker coach Nicole Dufour said. “The thing I thought they did very well was embrace those roles tonight. They filled in where we needed them.”
Woodlawn finished 3-0 in the Pool E with a notable 25-21 win over Zachary.
“We played good in that one,” Woodlawn coach Nelson Malpica said of the Zachary win. “We need to play at that same level against every opponent. That’s the challenge.”
Changing places, faces
Former St. Joseph’s and Tulane star Cori Martone is back with her alma mater as an assistant coach. Martone directed the SJA JV during its three sets.
In Pool B, Martone took on another ex-St. Joseph’s standout, Michele LeBouef of Central. The SJA JV won 25-20. Martone (three) and LeBouef (four) combined to win seven state titles for the Redstickers.
Live Oak coach Katie Roux, a multisport standout at Denham Springs, made her debut. Roux played college softball at McNeese.
Like Kohn, previously the girls basketball coach at Woodlawn, Friendship Capitol’s Traci Landry started her season in a different locale. Landry was Redemptorist’s coach last season.