It’s hard to fathom that a defending state championship team ranked No. 2 among large schools in the New Orleans Advocate Sweet 16 is in need of a confidence boost, but that’s where Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said her team was heading into Tuesday.
“We’ve been on a roller coaster this year,” Hagadone said. “We needed this one.”
With recent losses to St. Joseph’s and Pope John Paul II, Hagadone said a win at home against McGehee — the No. 2-ranked small school in the Sweet 16 — could put her team back on track.
The Cubs (14-4) did what was necessary to grind out a 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-17 four-set win over McGehee on Tuesday, handing the Hawks only their second loss of the season.
“We finally started communicating more at the end, and that’s what we’ve really been working on,” said Mount Carmel outside hitter Kristen Nuss, who tied for the team lead with 21 kills.
“We knew in order to turn this thing around would have to start playing like a team, and we’re finally getting there.”
After a splitting the first two sets, Mount Carmel took control in the third set.
The Cubs sprinted out to a 10-2 lead to start the set and fought off a late rally by the Hawks to take a 25-18 win. They followed that up by jumping out to a 12-5 lead in the fourth set and finished things off with a 25-17 win to end the match.
“McGehee is a very good team. Yyou can tell they’ve been playing together for a while now,” Hagadone said. “They’re great competition, and I’m so glad we were able to add them to the schedule because I know they’re only going to make us better.”
Both teams went back and forth in a highly competitive first set that had nine ties before the Cubs ran off a five-point streak to take a 24-19 lead. McGehee closed within 24-22, but freshman hitter Ellie Holzman swatted the final kill of the set to give MCA the 25-22 win.
The Hawks (19-2) bounced back in the second set, jumping out to a 20-15 lead before Mount Carmel made a late push to cut the lead to 24-23, but McGehee middle blocker Naya Gros came up with the set-ending kill to give the Hawks a 25-23 victory to tie the match.
“I thought we didn’t do a good job with our ball control at the end,” McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn said. “Mount Carmel is a very good team. (Nuss) may be on of the best players in the state, but we have to do a better job controlling the ball if we’re going to beat a team like them.”
Holzman was the other Cub who tallied 21 kills, while Kierstan Perry led the team with 29 assists. Gros was the Hawks team leader with 16 kills, and Maddy Tillery led the way with a game-high 30 assists.