Ascension Christian had never won a volleyball playoff contest before Monday night. After losing the first set, the Lions settled in and set their sights on making history.
Libero Sierra McGraw served an ace to close out a 3-1 regional-round victory over Ascension Catholic, sending the Lions to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Volleyball Tournament for the first time.
“After that first set, I think they (ACH players) realized it was another game, and they just played,” Ascension Christian coach Lisa Pellegrin said. “We’ve been building this program for five years. And to go to the state tournament means a lot.”
Gonzales-based Ascension Christian (18-9) is part of a three-team Baton Rouge contingent in Division V.
Joining seventh-seeded Ascension Christian are No. 4 St. John-Plaquemine (38-5) and No. 8 Catholic-Pointe Coupee (18-20).
All three teams play 10 a.m. quarterfinal games to help open the three-day LHSAA tourney when it begins Thursday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center. Semifinals are set for Friday and the finals in all five divisions are scheduled for Saturday.
Ascension Christian plays No. 2 Metairie Park Country Day. St. John meets No. 5 Ascension Episcopal (28-8). Catholic-Pointe Coupee faces No. 1 Episcopal School of Acadiana.
Amanda Stewart had 10 kills and 6 blocks for Ascension Christian in its 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-18 win over ACHS. Reyna Jones (8 kills, 6 digs), Sidney Sehon (10 digs, 6 aces, 5 blocks) and Victoria Schexnader (21 kills) were other leaders for the Lions.
Stewart and McGraw are Ascension Christian’s only seniors.
Schexnayder, Sehon and Jones are juniors who have been playing since they were fourth-graders at the Lions’ feeder school, Faith Academy.
Ascension Christian earned a bidistrict round bye as one of the top seven seeds after going 12-0 in District 4. Though Country Day is one of the top Division V seeds, Pellegrin doesn’t expect her team to be nervous.
“The hardest part was winning that first playoff game,” Pellegrin said. “Now I hope we can just relax and play.”
Matchups to note
Second-seeded St. Amant (35-6) and No. 4 St. Joseph’s (39-5), both of Division I, help lead the way for the Baton Rouge group that also includes No. 7 Lutcher (26-9) in Division II, No. 9 Brusly in Division III and No. 4 University in Division IV.
St. Amant meets No. 10 Northshore at 6:45 p.m., while SJA faces No. 5 Dominican-New Orleans at 8:30 p.m.
Another notable New Orleans team, top-seeded Mount Carmel Academy, plays H.L. Bourgeois (31-10) also at 8:30 p.m. in Division I. In Division II, Lutcher meets No. 2 St. Martinville (30-11) at 11:45 a.m. Meanwhile, top-seeded St. Thomas More-Lafayette takes on Belle Chasse at 3:15 p.m. Sixth-seeded Assumption (29-15) meets Breaux Bridge (31-8) at 5 p.m.
In Division III, Brusly plays No. 2 E.D. White Catholic-Thibodaux at 8:30 p.m. Top-seeded Ursuline Academy-New Orleans meets Lakeshore (19-13) at 5 p.m.
U-High (34-6) plays No. 5 John Curtis at 1:30 p.m. in Division IV. Top-seeded Notre Dame-Crowley (32-10) plays Louse McGehee (19-20) at 11:45 p.m. Also, No. 3 Newman faces Iota (33-6) at 6:45 p.m.