Volleyball Playoffs: Pope John Paul, Hannan among winners Thursday at Pontchartrain Center
KENNER — Top-seeded Pope John Paul II was late getting started Thursday morning, but everything turned out fine for the Jaguars.
Missed communication led to the team bus leaving school at 7:25 a.m. instead of the scheduled 7 a.m. By the time the team crossed Lake Pontchartrain and reached the Pontchartrain Center, it was 35 minutes late, showing up just 25 minutes before the 9 a.m. start of its Division IV match against No. 8 Sacred Heart.
“We have never played at nine o’clock in the morning before and we were late getting here,” PJP II coach Danny Tullis said, “but we plated well the first two sets and then we lost our mindset a little bit and it turned into a dogfight.”
All’s well that ends well as PJP II (31-2) prevailed, 25-15, 25-16, 17-25, 25-11. It will face No. 4 Archbishop Hannan (25-8), which defeated No. 5 Newman (30-10), 25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 17-25, 15-9, in the semifinals Friday.
“We were really working hard in the beginning and had good focus and were serving well,” Tullis said. “We had good energy and we were driven to get every ball and then after we won a couple of sets we took our foot off the gas.
“Give credit to Sacred Heart. They played phenomenal defense. They did a great job, they had a good game plan. We started missing serves and passes and then it turns into a dog fight. But we regained out composure and put it back together so that was good.”
Sacred Heart finished 14-13.
“All the credit goes to Pope,” Cardinals coach Sarah Reiss said. “They’re a well-oiled team, very well coached and very disciplined. We knew that we would have to be near perfect today in order to win. We talked all week leading up to this match about courage and what it means to play with guts and heart and our girls did that today. We knew we couldn’t go out and play our safe match today. We had to go out and play aggressive and have the courage to take risks and we did that.
“Taking game three, 25-17, is huge. We played our best volleyball of the season in that game. That’s all a coach can ask for is to peak at the end. We showed them our good face. We’re a young team We’re excited about the direction of the program. It was a great little battle today.”
Hannan was in position to sweep before Newman made a dramatic turnaround to even the game and force a fifth set.
“Newman gave us a great game and especially in the third and fourth sets they played great defense and played with a lot of confidence,” Hannan coach Rebekka Bonnaffee said. “I think we relaxed a little too much. I think we need to learn how to play all three sets and not just two. But I’m so proud of my girls for coming back in that fifth set.
“We’ve had many, many matches that went five sets. We won some and we lost some. It’s something we’ve been going through all season. It paid off. I think my girls realized that they wanted it and if they were going to get it they needed to go and get it. Thankfully we’re able to do that now because we’ve been tested so much throughout the season.”
“I’m proud of my kids and how they competed and battled and left everything that they had out on the court,” Newman coach Colleen Loerzel said. “I think you had two teams out there that wanted to win really badly and were executing well and competing really hard and one team gets to finish and one doesn’t.”
The other Division IV semifinal will pair No. 3 University Lab (36-6), which defeated No. 6 Riverside (30-12), 25-18, 25-23, 25-20, and No. 2 Notre Dame (33-10), which defeated No. 10 Northlake Christian (16-12), 25-6, 17-25, 25-21, 25-20.
PJP II and Hannan are among nine Metro area teams to advance to Friday’s semifinals. The championships will be held Saturday.
Here are Thursday’s results from the other divisions:
No. 1 Mount Carmel (37-7) defeated No. 9 Baton Rouge (29-13), 25-9, 25-15, 25-13, and will face No. 4 Northshore (24-10), which defeated No. 5 Dominican (28-17), 25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 22-25, 15-9.
No. 2 St. Joseph’s Academy (29-13) defeated No. 7 Acadiana (24-9), 25-22, 25-11, 23-25, 25-12 in Thursday’s final match and will face No. 14 St. Amant (23-18), which defeated No. 11 Chapelle (24-19), 12-25, 25-17, 25-19, 25-17.
“Our only focus coming in was Baton Rouge,” Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said. “We watched film on them and we knew what we were up against. I think we played really crisp today. I definitely think we’re playing our best volleyball right now. I hope we can keep it up.”
No. 2 Cabrini (29-13) defeated No. 7 Ben Franklin (25-16), 26-24, 25-19, 27-25. It was the third victory this season for the Crescents against their District 7-II rival.
“I’ve been telling them all week that it’s really hard to beat a team three times,” Cabrini coach Kasey Laird-Dennies said. “We’ve seen each other. We know each other’s strong points. It’s extremely hard to play a team like that three times.
“It was a good game, a hard game. Ben Franklin pushed us in a lot of ways that we haven’t been pushed this season so they made us hustle and work as hard as we possibly could.”
The Crescents will face No. 3 St. Scholastica (32-8), which defeated No. 6 South Lafourche (25-10), 25-14, 25-20, 25-23,
No. 1 Teurlings Catholic (40-0) beat No. 9. St. Thomas More (24-20), 25-19, 25-16, 25-12, and will meet No. 4 Assumption (29-16), which defeated No. 5 South Terrebonne (29-12), 25-12, 26-24, 25-13.
No. 2 St. Michael the Archangel (30-4) defeated No. 10 De La Salle (22-20), 25-21, 25-21, 25-17. The Warriors will meet No. 3 Parkview Baptist (35-7), which defeated No. 11 Brusly (27-13), 25-16, 25-15, 25-7, in the semifinals Friday.
De La Salle coach Melissa Grubbs said she thought her team, which hadn’t played in the state tournament since 2014, was adversely affected by the surroundings.
“But I did remind them that we started off 0-7 and then won eight straight and went on to win district,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team and who they’ve become, the leadership and becoming one team and playing as one team. These girls have come a long way.”
The other Division III semifinal will match No. 4 Ursuline (32-10), which defeated No. 12 Westlake (25-13), 25-20, 25-19, 25-16, and No. 1 Vandebilt Catholic (38-5), which defeated No. 8 E.D. White (19-21), 25-14, 25-13, 25-19.
Ursuline overcame the loss of junior libero Erin Goeber, who suffered a knee injury early in the match. Her status for the semifinals is uncertain.
“It’s the state tournament,” Lions coach Jay Jay Juan said. “It’s about surviving. It’s not about how well you’ve played it’s about what you do here right now. The process is to go one game at a time.
“It’s always tricky because you have emotions in play. All the kids’ goal no matter what is to get to the Pontchartrain Center. It’s navigating through those first 10 points with the energy level high and I think good job to navigate through that.”
In Division V, No. 1 Country Day (34-6) defeated No. 8 Episcopal of Acadiana (17-15), 25-18, 25-17, 25-13, and advanced to meet No. 4 Central Catholic (32-11), which beat No. 5 St. John (21-10), 25-23, 25-18, 25-19.
“I thought we started off a little nervous, but I thought we played into a really good rhythm,” Cajuns coach Julie Ibieta said. “It looked like we were comfortable so I was happy with our play today.”
No. 2 McGehee (41-3) beat No. 7 Catholic-Pointe Coupee (23-18), 25-7, 25-12, 25-10, and will face No. 3 Ascension Episcopal (32-8), which beat No. 6 St. Martin’s, 25-20, 25-21, 25-14.
“I thought our girls were playing consistent,” Hawks coach Val Whitfield-Dunn said. “I really admire the hard defensive effort from Catholic-Pointe Coupee. They’re a really good team. The majority of our team is seniors and I think because they have some experience having been here before they did a very good job.”
St. Martin’s finished 25-13 after its first trip to the quarterfinals in six years.
“This is the first time in the Pontchartrain Center for all of our players so they were a little nervous,” Saints coach Ray Scioneaux said. “The adrenalin was very high so we were a little jittery at points. I think that might have affected the first set.
“But being here was an honor. We definitely didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but we had a great season and we have a lot to build on from this year.”
Prep Volleyball Semifinal Playoff Schedule for Friday, Nov. 10
(1) Mount Carmel vs. (4) Northshore, 3:30 p.m.
(2) St. Joseph’s Academy vs. (14) St. Amant, 3:30 p.m.
(1) Teurlings Catholic vs. (4) Assumption, 1:40 p.m.
(2) Cabrini vs. (3) St. Scholastica, 1:40 p.m.
(1) Vandebilt Catholic vs. (4) Ursuline, 11:50 a.m.
(2) St. Michael vs. (3) Parkview Baptist, 11:50 a.m.
(1) Pope John Paul II vs. (4) Archbishop Hannan, 11:50 a.m.
(2) Notre Dame vs. (3) University High, 10 a.m.
(1) Country Day vs. (4) Central Catholic, 10 a.m.
(2) McGehee vs. (3) Ascension Episcopal, 10 a.m.
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…