The seasons of St. Michael the Archangel and E.D. White came down to a precious few points Friday afternoon.
The match went back and forth and the teams battled into a fifth set before third-seeded E.D. White edged second-seeded St. Michael 15-12 in the Division III semifinals of the LHSAA state volleyball tournament at Kenner's Pontchartrain Center.
The Cardinals advanced to face top-seeded Vandebilt Catholic, which edged fourth-seeded De La Salle in five sets, in the final at 2 p.m. Saturday.
St. Michael got off to a slow start, falling, 25-20, in the first set, but rebounded to take the second set, 30-28. It struggled again in the third set, falling 25-17, before bouncing back to take the fourth set 25-17.
“We didn’t come out and play quite as well as we wanted to in the first set,” St. Michael coach Robert Smith said. “We righted the ship a little bit in the second set. We really seemed to be hitting an all cylinders there. We really controlled that set then we got behindm and it was just too hard to come back against a really good team.”
In the fifth set, E.D. White seemed in control with a 13-8 lead before Smith called timeout. The Warriors scored the first points after the timeout, but the Cardinals answered with another point to get within one point of victory.
St. Michael didn’t go quietly, fighting off two match points, leading to an E.D. White timeout. The Warriors fought off a third match point before Rebecka Bollinger’s kill gave the Cardinals the victory.
“We gave it our all,” said Amber Igiede, who led St. Michael with 36 kills and four blocks and added 18 digs. “The last timeout we said we can do this, and I actually thought we could do it. The whole team did.
“Our motto the whole season was believe. We believed we could do it.”
Lila Barolis led E.D. White with 37 kills and 26 digs and Mary Grace Chiasson had 61 assists.
Even though the Warriors fell a game short of the title game, they finished an impressive 33-6.
“I was walking over her to talk them, wondering what I should say and I said to myself, wait, stop,” Smith said. “What a great season for us. We accomplished so many things, so many of our goals, So focus on the positives.”
Igiede was one of St. Michael seven seniors.
“It was amazing,” she said of her final season. “As a senior I know none of the seniors regrets one thing that we did. Coach told us not to say we should have done this, we should have done that. Just embrace it. It was my best season. I loved it. Our team came together, and we have a really strong bond now.”
The Cardinals will face their Division III, District 8 rival in Vandebilt in the final. The teams split two matches in the regular season with the home team winning in straight sets both times.
“The times that we lost (this season) our defense wasn’t on point,” E.D. White coach Sarah Johnson said, “but our defense definitely made the difference today. We picked up everything. We got our hands on some balls blocking-wise and made things easier for our back-row players.”
Johnson said it’s “helpful” to play a familiar opponent with such a quick turnaround and so little time to study the opponent in the title game.
“We know how they play,” Johnson said. “We’re 1-1 with them. We know what to do. We know what works. If we were playing a team we hadn’t played before, we’d be going in blindly. I think this is better.”
De La Salle got off to a fast start but couldn’t maintain its edge on Vandebilt, holding leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before falling.
Brittany Theriot led Vandebilt with 21 kills, Lauren Fitch had six bloks, Annelise Henry nine digs and Angelle Buquet 56 assists.
Jewell Johnson led De La Salle (24-12) with 31 kills and seven blocks. Laney Robertson had 49 assists and Skyler Miller had 24 digs.