There was a playoff atmosphere in the air Monday night when St. Michael the Archangel hosted The Dunham School for its annual breast cancer awareness “pink” game.
In addition to raising money through T-shirt sales and gate receipts, the game produced a rowdy ambience fed by student attendance from both schools, but it was St. Michael that settled in and handled it best.
Led by Claire Clifton’s six aces and 13 assists, St. Michael took a 3-0 win by scores of 25-18, 25-19 and 25-19. Dunham (7-12) led early in the last two games but was unable to hold on.
Also pitching in for the Warriors (13-6) was Taylor Heck with six kills, 11 assists and six digs, and Lauryn Goff, who had four kills and three digs.
Dunham was topped by Anna Catherine Padgett with seven kills and three digs, Aine Muhumuza with two kills and four blocks and Alyssa Deason with 12 assists and three aces.
“I thought we played well,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “It’s a very different environment from what you play in for a regular district game. It was much more like a playoff environment.
“It’s easy to get jittery and nervous, and we did a good job focusing on the task at hand.”
The task at hand included joining up with the Dunham squad Sunday night as players from both teams helped decorate the St. Michael gym and paint signs. It helped produce a crowd that Smith and Dunham coach Donna Pixley said would help their teams come playoff time.
Help down the road would have to suffice for Dunham, which struggled with its defense, and gave up too many points on its return of service game.
“We were kind of in chaos mode tonight,” said Pixley, whose team is considered one of the favorites in Division V, District 4 despite playing a tough schedule to open the season.
“We didn’t look fluid, didn’t know where people were going, but everybody played their normal position so I’m not really sure where that came from.”
Pixley refused to use the atmosphere as an excuse, but admitted it might have helped the Warriors.
“I think the crowd probably worked in St. Michael’s favor. We don’t usually play with a crowd like that. It’s something we’ve got to get used to. If you make it to the Pontchartrain Center, you’re going to face that.”
In game one, kills by Goff, Madeleine Gremillion and Whitney Hartmann helped St. Michael move out to a 17-6 lead. Dunham got to within 23-18 behind three kills from Padgett and two by Ashley Smith.
Goff’s kill and Smith’s hit into the net closed out the 25-18 game one win for the Warriors.
Dunham led by as many as five points in the early going of game two. St. Michael took the lead for good at 12-11 on Hartmann’s block.
Dunham got as close as 17-16, but St. Michael reasserted itself, scoring seven of the next eight points. The Warriors picked up the final point of the 25-19 victory when Muhumuza was called for being in the net.
Game three was close throughout the early going, but St. Michael surged ahead after the score was tied at 13.
The Warriors scored the next five points and never let Dunham get closer than three points the rest of the way. A tip by Gremillion ended it, and St. Michael finished off the sweep winning game three 25-19.