Cabrini hasn’t cruised at the Pontchartrain Center like the team it will face Saturday for the Division II championship.
Instead, Cabrini has had to put together a pair of gritty efforts at the Pontchartrain Center to reach the title game.
The latest outing was Friday, when Cabrini dropped two of the first three games before rallying for a thrilling five-set victory (25-23, 18-25, 16-25, 26-24, 15-8) over Assumption.
“Our coach puts us in these type of positions every day in practice,” senior Rakell Spencer said. “We’ll scrimmage, and she’ll put 22-15 on the scoreboard and we have to come back and win. That’s how we pulled these games off today and yesterday. We know we’re prepared.”
Spencer, also a standout in basketball for the Crescents, led the way with 33 kills.
“You don’t get players like her too often,” Cabrini coach Kasey Laird said. “More than her talent, it’s her drive to win. You can see it in her face and her actions. She is one of the big reasons why we are here.”
Cabrini, the No. 1 seed, now faces an even tougher task Saturday when it plays three-time defending state champion and top-seed St. Thomas More in the 4:30 p.m. title match.
“They are a team that doesn’t make errors,” said Laird, in her first season at her alma mater. “We are going to have to play our best game, and we’ll see what happens.”
Laird played on the 2007 championship team at Cabrini. This will mark the Crescents’ first appearance in the title game since winning it in 2011.
“It feels amazing,” said Spencer. “We work so hard. We made up our minds that we weren’t going to be heartbroken this year.”
Spencer had plenty of help Saturday.
Atira Jells finished with 16 kills, and Bailey Hepting had 51 assists. Hanna Kennair and Endia Buck had 15 digs each.
And there was also the noisy student section that did its part.
“We wouldn’t have won without them,” Laird said. “They are the seventh person the court.”
Laird said her team never panicked after dropping the second and third games of the match.
“We had to eliminate a lot of errors,” Laird said. “We were causing our own pain, our own grief. I told them we had to come together and play to win. It all came to us.”
Now they turn their attention to a St. Thomas More team that has lost just one match all season long after cruising to a 3-0 victory over Belle Chasse in Friday’s other semifinals.
“I think its going to be a great game,” said St. Thomas More coach Jessica Burke. “I’m looking forward to a good quality match.”
St. Thomas More ended any chances of an all-New Orleans area final with its win over Belle Chasse, which made its deepest playoff run in school history.
“We finished 37-8, won two tournaments and went undefeated in district, and that hasn’t happened in a long time,” Belle Chasse coach Anna Marie Reynolds said. “This team was phenomenal. This group definitely had more heart than any team you could ask for. They had the “it” factor and they ran with it all year.”
Belle Chasse fell two wins shy of its first state title.
Cabrini is now one win away from its fifth.
“It’s hard to put into words,” Laird said. “It’s a very special time.”