To say it wasn’t easy would be an understatement, but for the third straight season, the title of Division V state volleyball championship belongs to Country Day.
The tops-seeded Cajuns rallied in all three of their sets to sweep second-seeded Ascension Episcopal 25-23, 29-27, 25-23. It was the ninth title in 10 years for Country Day.
Country Day picked up leads near the end of the first and third sets. The Cajuns' initial lead in the first set came when they went up 24-23 and in the third set their first lead was 22-21. The Cajuns were propelled by MVP Alex Smith, who had a game-high 19 kills, and Kaci Chairs, who contributed 13 kills, two blocks and two aces.
While it may seem like the Cajuns winning state titles in volleyball is a given, coach Julie Ibieta says nothing is guaranteed.
“(Ascension Episcopal) beat us in the semifinals in 2015,” she said. “They’re a great team that’s built up a lot of experience over the years, and we feel very fortunate to come out of here with a win.”
“Every year is completely different. We have some players with us from before, others who weren’t and some who are playing a lot more than before. You have to treat each group like a completely new team, and this group really figured it out the last month or so. I couldn’t be prouder of these young women.”
For the Blue Gators, this was a good chance to win a state championship with eight seniors, six of them starters.
Ascension Episcopal jumped to big leads in all three sets, led by Addie Vidrine, who had 15 kills and three blocks. It wasn’t enough to finally get over the hump, however. AES coach Jill Braun complimentary of her seniors.
“As the score showed we were in every single game,” she said. “We just didn’t finish the games like we needed to. The one thing to know no matter what the scoreboard says is that these girls fought every single point. Our seniors have a lot of history and have played a lot of volleyball together. They’ve always represented this program well. I’m proud of them no matter what the scoreboard says.”
Ascension sprung out to a 6-1 lead and led comfortably for most of the first set. They were leading 21-17 when Country Day scored four straight and 8 of the next 10 to take the set.
The second set also started with a big Gators lead, this time 5-0. AES continued to fight, but Country Day tied it at 12. The two exchanged leads until the Cajuns pulled off the 29-27 win.
The third set was more of the same as the Gators led 20-15 before the Cajuns scored 10 of the next 12 to win the set and the championship.