St. Michael continued to show how far it has come in volleyball this season when it took the court Wednesday evening for a first-round Division III playoff match against Berwick.
The Warriors fell behind early in each set, but regrouped to take a 3-0 win over the Panthers by scores of 25-10, 25-16 and 25-6.
Eighth-seeded St. Michael (22-15), which has reached the state tournament in Kenner the last three years, has a much younger squad this season. A 4-7 start got turned around, in part, thanks to a 13-game winning streak that included a 5-0 run through District 7-III.
St. Michael will host No. 9 St. Louis in the regional round. The Saints won their first round match 3-0 over Frederick A. Douglass.
“Its been a heck of a journey. We graduated so much (talent) that we didn’t know what to expect,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “They earned a no. 9 seed, and I’m really proud of how this young team has grown and developed. They’ve been a fun group to watch.”
One of the keys for St. Michael was its service game, which gave Berwick fits. Lexi Gonzalez, in particular, was a thorn in the Panthers sides offering up 28 serves without an error.
The second set was tied 1-1, but Gonzalez served the Warriors into a 14-0 run. Included in that streak were seven of Gonzalez’ 12 aces for the game.
“(Gonzalez) got them out of system a lot,” Smith said. “We were able to get a lot of free balls back and be able to get into an offense. She serves a tough ball and she’s always been really accurate.”
Other leaders for the Warriors were Jena Vavasseur and Karleigh Bourgoyne with 12 kills each. Bourgoyne also had 10 digs and nine assists, and Gonzalez added 6 kills and 10 digs.
Berwick (9-20) was topped by Laney Crouch (4 kills, 3 digs), Ryleigh Arnold (8 blocks, 3 digs) and Ashlynn Fitter (15 digs).
Panthers coach Megan Fegenbush noted that return of service is usually one of her team’s strong suits.
“It was probably nerves,” Fegenbush said. “We had a lot of girls that hadn’t necessarily been in this situation before. Our girls grew this year, but sometimes things get the best of them.”
Growth during the season is something St. Michael’s Bourgoyne knows about.
“We didn’t have the big 6-foot tall girls like we did last year,” she said. “We have to push ourselves harder and basically work for everything.”