The playoffs are always full of jubilation and heartbreaks. Monday night’s volleyball matchup featuring eighth-seeded De La Salle and ninth-seeded Westlake was no different.
The Cavaliers downed the Rams 25-22, 21-25, 26-24, 25-21 to advance to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs and a trip to the state tournament at the Ponchartrain Center in Kenner.
Despite a 40-minute delay, both teams came out red hot. Following several lead changes, the Cavaliers took the first game 25-22. Junior Joi Johnson provided two consecutive kills to help the Cavaliers to a three-point victory.
“I was so excited, and I have waiting on this game since last week,” Johnson said. “I was just ready and hungry for the ball. If she was going to send it to me, I just knew I was ready to crush it to the floor.”
Westlake answered by scoring four straight points to earn a 25-21 victory in the second set. Jaden Towner delivered some key blocks throughout the night, but none were bigger than her fourth, to seal the second set victory.
Towner finished with 13 blocks and 16 kills. The Rams played up-tempo majority of the night and took advantage of De La Salles’s mistakes.
“I don’t think we did anything wrong out there tonight and our kids fought hard,” Westlake coach Gloria Fontenot said. “Volleyball is a game of emotions and mental preparations. Momentum is very important to everything going according to plan. We made some crucial mistakes and it allowed the other team to rally and get ahead quickly.”
The third set continued the back and forth trend of the previous sets. Senior Brooke Bonura kept the offense in constant motion and helped left the Cavaliers to 26-24 win in the third set. Bonura finished with 40 assists to bring her season total to more than 1,000.
De La Salle coach Alan Segal said he thought his team played well, but could play a lot better.
“We can do more than we did tonight, and my players know that,” Segal said. “If Joi and Jordan (Rankins) want to play to their highest potential, we would be tough to beat. We got out of position on some plays and it hurt us. All the games were close, but we didn’t have control like we should have had.
“Westlake hit balls all over the place and I don’t think we were prepared for that, considering they haven’t hit the ball much in the past.”
Jane Sullivan provided a huge ace to break the 21-21 tie in the fourth set. Johnson would again rise to occasion to help her team to victory. She made a key block to give her team a 24-21 advantage.
Johnson followed that with a crushing right-handed kill to end the set 25-21.
“I just wanted to do it for my team,” Johnson said. “We deserved this. After the second set, my coaches told us to settle down and take what was ours. I can’t express how excited I am and this win is just beautiful.”
Rankins and Johnson combined for 39 kills and five blocks. Hailey Sellers recorded 28 digs and Mallory Hefner added another 23 for the Cavaliers. Morgan Harlow contributed 33 assists and five digs for Rams.