Lady Broncos volleyball season opens strong

The Lady Broncos volleyball team opened its 2019 campaign at home on Sept. 4 with a convincing win over the neighboring Baker Buffalos in straight sets 25-9, 25-6 and 25-7.

Leaders for the Broncos were Lillian Talbot with 11 kills and 3 aces, senior Machaela Neal had 6 kills and 4 aces, and Kyra Woods had 26 assists and 3 aces.

On the season opening victory, coach Cheri Perry noted that her team prepared all off season "for this very moment."

"Baker was a very athletic team and played well," the coach said. "I’m glad we were able to get that first game out of the way and get those jitters out.”

The competition would pick up the following night as the Lady Broncos hosted Dutchtown, a veteran team that was a Division 1 semifinalist in the 2018 volleyball playoffs. Zoe Wooten, a starter since her freshman year and the reigning volleyball Metro MVP for all divisions, led the Lady Griffons.

“Since I’ve been at Zachary, Dutchtown has always had a strong program," Perry said. "Wooten is a great player and it also helps that she has some talented teammates that are able to contribute to what she can do.”

Dutchtown rolled through Zachary in the first two sets winning 25-13 and 25-8. The Lady Broncos field a young team with only one senior, Machaela Neal, but are a hustling group that has high energy coaches, Perry and assistant Janie Tidwell, that fight with the team through every point and provide constant coaching tips. This started to pay dividends in the third set.

The Lady Broncos came alive in the third and ran out to a 6-3 lead. Sophomore setter Kyra Woods would suffer an injury shortly after the Lady Broncos took the 3-point lead. Using a group of replacement setters, the Lady Broncos were able to keep the lead until both teams reached the 12-point mark. “I was literally calling different players to become setters in between points depending on the rotation and what we needed at that time,” Perry said.

The Lady Griffins would make a run and extend the lead to five. The Lady Broncos fought back to within one (19-20) to try and force a game four. Dutchtown coach Patrick Ricks called a timeout as the Lady Broncos and Zachary crowd were riding a wave of momentum. The Lady Griffins were able to break serve and Griffins senior Zoe Wooten went to work registering 3 kills as the Lady Griffins closed out the Lady Broncos 25-20 to win in straight sets.

Perry was pleased with the response of the girls when their setter went down. “I could not have been any prouder of the girls. At that moment, they could have given up and gave in but they didn't” Perry said.

Wooten would finish with 12 kills on the night. Leaders for the Lady Broncos would include Lillian Talbot (6 kills and 5 digs), Kelsey White (4 kills and 3 blocks) and Monet McDaniels (11 digs). Perry identified areas for improvement from the loss, including “better communication, making sure blockers know where their hitters are and being where we need to be on defense. We will continue to work on those things until they become habit.”

Perry was pleased with the overall effort. “They showed a fight in them that we haven't seen in long time, and for that I am so proud of them," she said. "They played with heart, they played to win, never gave up, played to the very last whistle and, most importantly, they played as a team.”

Perry’s message to the team in the locker room after the game: “Hold your heads high because you gave it your all and that is all we can ask for. There are going to be times when you give it all you've got and still not end up on top, and it will be those moments that I will still be proud of you.”

The Lady Broncos will be home in September for games against Ascension Catholic on Sept. 19, Baton Rouge High on Sept. 24, Madison Prep on Sept. 26 and Dunham on Sept. 30.

Warren Brady covers sports for The Plainsman. He can be contacted at zachary@theadvocate.com.