Despite being only the second match of the season for both teams, Thursday’s Pope John Paul II and Mandeville matchup had a postseason feel.
The second-ranked team in the Advocate Sweet 16 for small schools, the Jaguars defeated Mandeville, the seventh-ranked team in the large school poll 25-20, 27-25 and 25-15.
Marlena Cutura led the Jaguars with 10 kills and 14 digs. Ansley Tullis had eight kills, and Milayne Danna had a game-high 32 assists.
Camille Dedeaux said her team definitely felt the atmosphere change Thursday night.
“It definitely had a postseason feel,” she said. “It was really loud, and we are not really use to the pressure like that. It took us a while to get going, but we were able to pull through and beat a good Mandeville squad. In the end, we were able to find a way to side out and get the job done.”
The two teams traded points throughout the afternoon.
Falling behind 15-14 in the first game, PJP (2-2) responded by going on an 8-1 run to take a 23-16 lead en route to winning Game 1.
“Games like this get us ready for the playoffs,” Dedeaux said. “Give a lot of credit to Mandeville; they push us and make us get better as a team. As a team you like being pushed because it makes you find a way to work harder and get those side-outs to get the job done.
“I think our ability to go on that run in Game 1 was the story of the match. Our energy stepped up when we needed it. The coaching staff lit a fire under us. We knew we just had to stay calm and not freak out. We played our game, and it was good enough to win tonight.”
The back-and-forth continued into the second game. Riding the first-game momentum, PJP broke out to a 10-4 lead in the second game. Mandeville (1-1) responded with a 9-3 run to take a 14-13 lead.
Mandeville had two game points at 24-23 and 25-24 but was unable to convert. Tied 25-25, the Jaguars scored the final two points of the second game to take a 2-0 advantage.
For the Skippers, Kailynn Haley had 13 kills, and Sam Gomez had 12 kills to go along with six blocks. Brandy Bundy added 29 assists, and Reagan Rogers had nine digs.
Gomez said the Skippers must correct their errors and learn from the early season loss.
“We had chances in the first two games and just couldn’t finish it,” she said. “It was a lot of the same problems we had last season. We get to the point that we are about to be successful and just can’t get over the hump. We have to learn to fight harder to win the match.
“(Thursday) for example our service game was not on. It was on for the season-opener against Northlake, but tonight it was just not there. We have to clean that up.”