For the first time since 2008, the Division V championship trophy won’t be making its way from the Pontchartrain Center back to the Country Day campus in Metairie.
Country Day’s six-year reign as state volleyball champions came to a halt Friday in a match that will probably be remembered for years to come.
Ascension Episcopal, led by a stellar effort by freshman Addie Vidrine, outlasted Country Day in a 25-23, 35-33, 31-33, 27-25, 18-16 marathon that lasted 2½ hours.
“They played a great game; we played a great game,” Country Day junior Jenna Ibieta said. “I won’t walk away with regrets this, game because I know we gave it our all. Hopefully we can come back next year.”
The loss ended the chances of a 1 vs. 2, all-New Orleans-area final.
Top-seeded McGehee did its part earlier, cruising past Ascension Catholic 25-6, 25-16, 25-9 in the other semifinal.
“We worked so hard all year,” McGehee senior Amber Labat said. “You could see the effort and desire from everybody on the team. We started out strong today, and that was our gameplan. We didn’t want to let up.”
McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn was pleased with her team’s effort.
“They wanted to come out and play well from the start,” said Whitfield-Dunn. “Their focus this year has been ‘One.’ One day at a time. One point at a time. One game at a time. Everything else has been blocked out. They have been one unit.”
McGehee will go for its sixth state title and first since 2008 on Saturday morning when it plays against an Ascension Episcopal team that avenged its loss in last year’s championship game.
Vidrine led the way with a stellar effort that included a jaw-dropping 49 kills.
“I have never had this feeling before in my entire life,” said Vidrine. “This is better than winning nationals.”
Country Day seemed to be in control early, racing out to an 8-2 lead in the first game.
That’s when Ibieta injured her ankle and the Blue Gators battled back to take a 13-11 lead.
Ibieta returned and Country Day prevailed in the first game 25-22. But that was just the appetizer for things to come. Ascension won the second game 35-33. Country Day responded by winning the third 33-31. Then Ascension won the fourth 27-25 despite trailing 24-21 at one point with the match (and the season) on the line.
“Honestly, I’m speechless,” said Ascension coach Jill Braun. “(To be down) 24-21 to battle back in the fourth game to win. I couldn’t be more proud. Without a question, this is the most impressive match I’ve ever coached in.”
Ibieta finished with 49 assists and Maddie Leger had 39 digs for the Cajuns.
“I thought we had a lot to overcome today, more than we could handle,” Country Day coach Julie Ibiete said. “Jenna went down and not being herself. She battled. We were never in the flow. I thought we played as hard as we could today. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
Ascension Episcopal will be going for its first state title Saturday.
“Our goal was to be in the state championship and to be state champs,” Braun said. “It didn’t matter who was on the other side of the court from us today. It wasn’t about beating Country Day; it was about winning the semis and going to the final. You have to forget who you are playing against.”