After losing several key contributors from last year’s Division I state title team, Mount Carmel volleyball coach April Hagadone knew it would take some time for her team to find its identity.
After Monday’s win over Archbishop Hannan, it seems as if the Cubs have found themselves at the perfect time.
Mount Carmel (32-4) reeled off its 20th straight victory with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-12 straight-set win at home over the No. 2-ranked small school in the New Orleans Advocate’s Sweet 16 to continue the team’s push for a chance to repeat as state champions for the first time since 1998.
Regardless of the team’s record, Hagadone is just happy that the team is beginning to play its best with the state playoffs set to begin in two weeks.
“We’re finally coming together, and we have really good chemistry on the court,” she said. “This is the time to shine for us, with the playoffs right around the corner. So we need to be at our best right now.”
Kristen Nuss led Mount Carmel, the No. 1 large school in the Sweet 16, with 14 kills in Monday’s win, with many of them coming courtesy of Kierstan Perry’s team-high 18 assists. Kellie Kampen also led the team with 20 digs on the night.
Sophomore Hailey Cabeceiras led the charge for the Hawks (27-5) with 17 kills , and Danielle Loup finished with a team-high 20 digs.
“We’re definitely hitting our stride at the right time,” Nuss said. “We’re finishing games a lot better than we did earlier in the season, but we’re just focused on trying to keep it up going forward.”
After taking the first five points of the match’s opening set, MCA allowed Hannan to fights its way back and even fell behind 10-8 at one point before reclaiming control. The Cubs tightened up things on the defensive end and cruised to a 25-17 win to open the game.
The teams teams went back-and-forth with 10 ties in the first 17 points of the second set, but the Cubs turned up their defense once again, and Paige Escarra got the final kill to seal a 25-20 win, giving MCA a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Cubs didn’t need late heroics in the final set, sprinting out to an early lead and finishing the game with a 25-12 win to clinch the sweep.
“I’ve been really pleased with that a lot of people have wanted the ball at the end of games for us,” Hagadone said. “I’m glad with what I’m seeing from my group right now, but we just want to keep taking it one game at a time.”
Hannan coach Rebekka Bonnaffee said the Hawks, who had a 13-game winning streak snapped after Monday’s loss, lost control early in the match and needs to learn from the experience
“We’ve just got to learn to be mentally tougher,” she said. “This is a good learning experience for us, and hopefully its a wake-up call.”