De La Salle started slowly but finished strong.
The fourth-seeded Cavaliers rebounded from a decisive loss in the first set to prevail against fifth-seeded Westlake 15-25 25-19, 25-22, 15-25, 15-11, in the Division III quarterfinals of the LHSAA state volleyball tournament on Thursday at the Ponchartrain Center in Kenner.
“It was a slow start,” De La Salle coach Melissa Donos Grubbs said. “Game one we looked like we were nervous. We needed to settle in some. It was very, very slow. We did not really play like we’re capable of playing until game three. Game four it got sloppy at moments. We couldn’t seem to pull it together. Game five was all or nothing.”
Grubbs emphasized that to her seniors after the fourth set.
“I told my seniors, it continues tomorrow or it ends tonight,” she said. “Whoever jumps on top and grabs the momentum is the team that can run with the game. So this is it. You play every ball like it’s the last ball because it can be the last ball or we can continue on. It was their choice.”
They jumped to a 4-1 lead in the fifth set, then saw the Rams pull ahead, 5-4. Westlake was still leading, 9-8, when the Cavaliers turned it around for good. Leah Kennedy had two points during a 5-0 run and Jewell Johnson put the match away with a kill.
“The message (from Grubbs) was, if we didn’t play together as a team this might be our last time together as a team,” said Johnson, one of De La Salle’s seven seniors. “That motivated us. We had to come together and get the job done.”
Johnson credited fellow senior Bobbi Conway with leading the comeback.
“Her serves brought us back into the game,” Johnson said.
But it was Johnson who led the Cavaliers with 15 kills, nine blocks and two aces, which were matched by Tyza Brister, another senior. Two more seniors were key as Taylor Edwards had 15 digs and Lainey Robertson had 31 assists
De La Salle advanced to face top-seeded Vandebilt Catholic, which defeated eighth-seeded Ursuline, 25-12, 25-17, 25-11, in the semifinals at 11:50 a.m. Friday. The other semifinal pairs third-seeded E.D. White, which defeated sixth-seeded Morgan City, 25-1, 25-17, 25-11, and second-seeded St. Michael the Archangel, which defeated seventh-seeded Parkview Baptist, 22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 18-25, 15-12.
Grubbs hopes to see the team she saw in the fifth set Thursday from the get-go on Friday.
“In the fifth set we jumped up with momentum and we played like we wanted to win in that fifth game,” Grubbs said. “But we have to pass much better than we did today. Our passing really struggled. If you can’t pass, you can’t run an offense. That’s what we need to perfect before (Friday).”
Jena Johnson led Westlake (30-8) with 23 kills and three blocks, Kenadee Morris and Riley Rhodes had 24 assists each and Rhodes had 14 digs.
Even though the Rams won the first set, they found themselves playing from behind for much of the match.
“I feel like if we had come out with a little more ball control earlier on then we would not have dug holes,” Westlake coach Gloria Fontenot said. “I thought (the Cavaliers) did a pretty good job of sticking to the game plan and we just kind of got out of control at times and it took us a little while to dig back and you can’t do that in a quarterfinal game.”
VANDEBILT CATHOLIC 3 URSULINE 0: Brittany Theriot led the Terriers with 14 assists, Angelle Buquet had 43 assists, Annelise Henry had six digs Madeline Benoit had six aces and Lauren Fitch seven blocks.
Nadia Farley and Kennedy Nicholls had five kills each to lead the Lions, 24-11. Annabel Beatmann had 20 digs and Megan Pulizzano had 11 assists.
E.D. WHITE 3, MORGAN CITY 0: Lila Bordis led the Cardinals with 10 kills and 17 digs, Mary Grace Chiasson had 21 assists and Maddie Gros had three aces.
ShaDiamond Holly led the Lady Tigers (27-14) with 10 kills, Haylie Crappell had 17 digs and Jolee Nini 16 assists.
ST. MICHAEL 3, PARKVIEW BAPTIST 2: Amber Igiede led the Warriors with 26 kills, Paige Cassano had 40 assists and Lexi Gonzalez had 34 digs.
Korie Peyton led the Eagles (21-13) with 15 kills, Taylor Daugherty had 30 assists and Bailey Lyons had 24 digs.