PLAQUEMINE — The gym was hot, and the competition just as heated when local Division V volleyball powers Dunham and St. John tangled Wednesday. There was no quit in any of the players as both teams battled back from adversity before Dunham eked out a win in five sets, 14-25, 26-24, 28-26, 18-25 and 15-11.
Dunham had to overcome the hammering it took in the first set, coming from behind to win the second set and fighting off a fierce St. John comeback to take the third.
St. John forced a fifth set by going on a late 8-3 run for a crucial win in the fourth set.
Dunham coach Donna Pixley said she was happy to get through a rugged season-opener.
“I hope they’re not all five-setters,” Pixley said. “If they are, I’ll age 10 years.
“I couldn’t ask my girls to play any harder in this environment (the heat). We played everyone today, and every single one contributed. I was pleased with our play in our jamboree (at McKinley) last week, but we definitely got better today.”
The Tigers were led by Anna Catherine Padgett, who recorded 18 kills and five blocks. Padgett got stronger as the match went on, registering five of her kills in Game 3 and scoring three straight points on uncontested dinks in the fourth. Fittingly enough, Padgett scored the final point of the day with a kill to end Game 5.
In the strangest play of the day, and a momentum-changer, Padgett also scored the last point of Game 3 on a serve which appeared to be going long but hit the Eagles’ Carlee Smith as she attempted to get away from the ball.
That ended a game that saw St. John battle back from four game points at 24-20 to tie the set at 25. Keri Yarbrough and Payton Passantino had two kills apiece during that run, and McKenzie LeBlanc had two crucial saves on one point that put the Eagles up 26-25 before Dunham ran off three straight points for a 2-1 advantage.
Passantino finished with 25 kills for St. John. Smith led the Eagles with 19 digs, while Claire Pearce had 39 assists and Yarbrough had four blocks.
Passantino scored seven points in the Eagles’ dominating first set, coming up with four kills, an ace and a variety of dinks and push shots.
“We tried a couple of things against 22 (Passantino) after the first set, but they still didn’t work all that well,” Pixley said.
St. John coach Chase Mancuso called it a heavyweight match.
“We had our runs, they had their runs. In the fifth set, they just made a few more plays than us,” Mancuso said. “It’s hard to sustain the way we played in the first set when we came out and hit them early.
I was proud of them when they lost that third set but didn’t give up and came back against a really good team to win the fourth set.”
Aine Muhumuza was a force at the net for the Tigers, finishing with seven blocks. Alyssa Deason had 20 assists, and Caroline Safford 22 digs.