It was student vs. teacher when Cabrini of New Orleans and St. Joseph’s Academy of Baton Rouge squared off in the finals of the Red-Hot Sticker Volleyball Classic at SJA on Saturday in Baton Rouge.
When Cabrini dispatched SJA 2-0 (25-20, 25-20) for the championship, it was a victory for Cabrini coach Kasey Laird over her high school coach at Cabrini, Sivi Miller, who is the coach at St. Joseph’s.
It was the first time the two had met in a match.
“Kasey Laird is doing a great job at Cabrini,” Miller said. “They have a lot of talent, and it was great to meet them in the finals. That’s what tournaments are all about, playing against great teams.”
Laird, whose enthusiasm and positive attitude mirror those of her former coach, reflected on her first encounters with Miller.
“Cabrini used to have an elementary school tournament, and when I was in about sixth grade I followed coach Miller around and told her I was going to play for her in high school. Then when I was in high school people told me I would be the coach here someday. And now I am,” she said.
Both teams had tough semifinal matches, with Cabrini topping St. Scholastica and St. Joseph’s defeating Mt. Carmel.
St. Joseph’s jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the final match before the Crescents, with senior Victoria Mehrtens serving, tied it at 5-5. The lead bounced back and forth until it was Cabrini that had the strong finish.
Down 18-17, the visitors ran off six straight points, led by Rackell Spencer with two kills and Kelley Miranda with one.
The Stickers managed two more points before Cabrini finished it out 25-20.
“This team has so much heart and so much fight, we knew we could do it,” Laird said. “We knew we could win the tournament.
“I think we played awesome in the final match. I know they’re tired, I know they’re sore, I know they’re hurting, but they left it all on the floor,” she said.
The Crescents carried their strong play at the end of the first set into the second. Again behind the strong jump serving of Mehrtens, they ran off seven unanswered points, and SJA could not get closer than three (14-11) for the rest of the set.
Miller gave her team mixed reviews.
“Our team had some highs and some lows this weekend,” she said. “I’m excited about a lot of things we did as a team, but we know we still have a lot to work on.”
Spencer, who was named to the all tournament team, led the Crescents with 15 kills. Bailey Hepting had 20 assists and three service aces, while Hanna Kennair had 13 digs.
Elise Gasperecz had five kills, seven digs and five assists for SJA. Melanie Miller recorded 16 digs. Sydney Meaux had six digs and seven assists, while sophomore middle blocker Erin Landry had four kills, and battled Spencer and Atria Jells at the net with several nice blocks.
Joining Spencer and Gasperecz on the all-tournament team were MVP Kristen Nuss of Mt. Carmel, Mikayla Richard and Gabby Chaix of St. Scholastica, Kristen Thompson of Dutchtown, Kourtney Gremillion of St. Amant, and Ellie Holzman of Mt. Carmel.
Ursuline, STM co-champs
Meanwhile in New Orleans, Ursuline Academy and St. Thomas More were co-champions of the Catholic League Tournament.
Both teams went 5-0 in the tournament that ended Saturday.
Ursuline defeated E.D. White, Teurlings Catholic, St. John, De La Salle and St. Thomas Aquinas in the three-day tournament.
“We played well,” Ursuline coach Jay Jay Juan said. “It was a long week for us as far as playing and then preparing since we were hosting.”
In the marquee match of the tournament Saturday, St. Thomas More beat Pope John Paul II 25-19, 24-26, 15-12.
St. Thomas More (15-0) is ranked No. 1 in the LHSAA’s Division II power rankings and Pope John Paul II is ranked No. 1 in Division IV.
“I thought we played really well and got better as a team,” St. Thomas More coach Jessica Burke said.
Junior setter Avery Breaux led St. Thomas More with 32 assists, 10 digs and three kills.
Rod Walker contributed to this report.