Defense wins championships, and defending state champion St. Joseph’s Academy watched that maxim become a reality Saturday night.
Second-seeded Mount Carmel Academy surprisingly swept the top-seeded Redstickers 3-0 to win the Division I state title to close out the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High School Athletic Association state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center.
“I think you saw a great match … two great teams,” St. Joseph’s coach Sivi Miller said. “We met five times this year, and I applaud Mount Carmel. They played outstanding defense. We talked about defense was going to win a state championship.
“But I’m proud of my team; they had a wonderful season. We have a great group of seniors that have a lot of great leadership and a lot of talent. We just didn’t put our best game out there tonight.”
Mount Carmel (47-2) won by scores of 25-23, 25-17 and 26-24 to notch its 10th state title overall and first since 2012. Title-match MVP Katie Kampen, a recent LSU signee, was the top gun for the Cubs as expected with 21 kills.
But the play of Jillian Clark and Kristen Nuss proved to be just as pivotal. Nuss finished with 18 digs and numerous times picked up SJA kill attempts off the floor to give her team a chance to extend points.
Clark provided pinpoint pass and 42 assists, while Megan Davenport added 8 blocks.
Katherine Young led St. Joseph’s (44-3) with 12 kills and three aces. Sydney Davis had eight kills for the Redstickers. Melanie Miller with 24 digs and Elise Gasperecz with 35 assists were other leaders for an SJA program that sought its 11th state title.
Most expected the contest to go five sets, much like the one last season. That loss, including a 15-11 fifth-set score, were rallying points for Mount Carmel. The Cubs swept all four of their playoff opponents in straight sets. It was the fifth meeting between the two this season and MCA comes away with a 3-2 edge.
“It’s a good friendly rivalry between us,” Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said. “It was the same two teams as last year, and this year we ended up on the positive side — hallelujah.”
MCA ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first set and eventually extended its lead to a much as six points. An ace by Young and a hitting error by the Cubs finally tied it at 18.
But the Redstickers were never able to seize control, something that became a recurring theme. A kill by Young got SJA within one at 24-23. But an SJA service error gave Mount Carmel an abrupt 25-23 win.
St. Joseph’s led early in the final two sets, only to see Mount Carmel rally.
“I expected it would go four or five sets; I expected that we were going to win,” Miller said. “It was point to point and we just let them get too many points in a role in rotations and that has been a weakness for us all year.”
The Redstickers led 9-4 in the second set after an error by the Cubs. MCA tied it at 13 and a block by Davenport along with two kills by Kampen gave the Cubs a 18-13 lead en route the 25-17 win.
“I’d say we all played really hard,” Young said. “But I think it was playing hard at the wrong times. There were points that we needed to get urgently that we didn’t get.”
St. Joseph’s went ahead 7-1 in the third set, forcing Hagadone to call a timeout. The Cubs scored 10 of the next 14 points to tie it at 11. SJA built leads of 17-13 and 20-16. Kills by Young and Daigle made it 22-19. Again MCA rallied and won it 26-24.
“Momentum is a big thing in volleyball, especially with rally scoring,” Hagadone said. “We had some big blocks. Sometimes it was that or something small like an ace that let us chip away.”