ST. AMANT — Falling into a predictable pattern is a trap many teams get caught in. Forging a new one is usually difficult, but the eighth-seeded St. Amant High volleyball team made it look easy.
The Gators’ confidence grew through each set of a 3-0 victory over No. 9 Central in a Division I regional-round playoff contest played Saturday at the Gold Dome.
“After the Spooktacular (Halloween tournament) we had a big talk (as a team),” the Gators’ Gracie Duplechein said. “We had a rough game. During the talk, we decided we had to play for each other and play for the love of the game. Since then, I think we’ve really stepped it up.”
And with Saturday’s 25-21, 25-14, 25-14 victory, St. Amant (21-14) moves to the quarterfinal round to face top-seeded Mt. Carmel (31-7) to help tip off the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Volleyball tournament that begins Thursday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
Elaina Anderson helped lead the Gators with 12 kills and an incredible .706 hitting percentage. Anderson also was in on five of the Gators’ eight total blocks, which proved to be notable. St. Amant’s defense limited Central to a .103 hitting percentage.
Duplechein had 12 assists, eight digs and seven kills. Freshman Maggie Ladner added seven digs. Caroline Nunnery led Central (27-13) with six kills and four blocks. Bailey Guercio (10 digs) and Madison Stephens (8 digs) were other contributors for the Wildcats.
“We’ve got a lot of girls who have not played volleyball that long,” Central coach Michele LeBouef said. “St. Amant is a program that is established. Those girls play a lot of high school and club volleyball.
“When we play our tougher opponents we hang with them for first 10 points, but then some self-doubt creeps in. It's a pattern. We’ve got a lot of young kids who got a chance to see and learn from this. Being here and playing for a berth in the (state) tournament is where we wanted to be.:
The first set was tied at 7-7 before the Gators went on a 12-5 run. Central battled back to within three at 24-21 on a kill by Jaida Alvin. Anderson fired right back with a kill for St. Amant to end it.
St. Amant rolled out to a 7-1 second-set lead and led by 10 or more points in a 25-14 win. Central worked to turn the tables in the final set and led 4-1. The Wildcats last lead was at 5-4. St. Amant went on a 16-5 run to take control and won again, 25-14.
St. Amant coach Allison Leake praised her team. Leake said she believes her team beat some long odds this season and could play a spoiler role at the LHSAA tourney.
“We are kind of late putting it all together,” SAHS’ Anderson said. “But now is better than never.”