For stretches of the first set in Tuesday’s match against Mandeville, the Slidell volleyball team looked it might be in the mood to upset the Skippers.
But Mandeville, the No. 3 ranked team in the New Orleans Advocate’s Large School rankings, eventually showed why they have earned that distinction.
Mandeville, trailing by as many as seven points in the first set, fought back to win the set and the Division I, District 5 match at Slidell. The final score was Mandeville 26-24, 25-19, 19-25, 25-23.
“We just had to stay focused and push ahead,” said Mandeville junior Madison Bothner, who had eight kills and four blocks. “We had to really fight.”
Bothner credited the setting of junior Brandi Bundy, who finished with 37 assists. And KK Haley, who led Mandeville (26-5, 10-0) with 15 kills, agreed.
“Brandi had a lot to do with it,” Haley said. “She really was putting it up there well tonight.”
Though Mandeville finished strongly, it was Slidell (20-14, 7-3) that dictated pace for most of the first set. Morgan Authement had a pair of blocks for points to cap a particularly strong stretch, and a service winner by Erica Bennett made the score 12-6. Mandeville closed within 16-11, but Slidell continued to find ways to penetrate the middle of the Skippers’ defense. Bennett fired several more kills to increase the lead to 23-17.
But Mandeville countered when Slidell fell into an offensive funk — and in its service game in particular. The Skippers soon took a 25-24 lead on a Bothner kill, and the Tigers sent a ball long on the next point to clinch the first set for Mandeville.
Slidell was undeterred by Mandeville’s rally, and stayed with the Skippers in the second set. With the score 11-9 in favor of the visitors, Haley pounded a cross-court kill to go up another point. A pair of Slidell miscues and a Bothner kill increased the lead to 15-10, and propelled Mandeville to the set win.
Again, Slidell fought back; taking an 8-2 lead to start the third. But the Skippers chipped away and closed the gap. This time, however, Slidell held off the rally and won the set on an ace.
The fourth set see-sawed to a 23-23 tie. But a Slidell block went out of bounds, and a kill by Bothner closed the match.
“The (first set) was a strong message that we sent to ourselves,” Mandeville coach Jody Walker said. “We’re down against a good team, and it was time for us to pick up the play and do it. But I won’t say we did it all, because Slidell helped us out with six or seven service errors in the game. It changed how they were doing things.”
Haley added 11 digs and four aces. Sam Gomez added 13 kills and five blocks for Mandeville, and Emily Boylan had seven kills and four blocks. Reagan Rogers totaled 17 digs for the Skippers.