Mount Carmel, Hagadone seek storybook ending
This final chapter is shaping up to be a fitting ending to one heck of a story.
It was October 17th when April Hagadone, in a post-game celebration of her 600th victory as Mount Carmel Academy’s head volleyball coach, announced that this would be her final season.
It was the worst-kept secret within the Cubs’ inner circle, but her announcement made it official and let the prep sports community at large in on it.
Hagadone is in her fifth season as Mount Carmel’s athletic director, which places non-volleyball demands on her time, including attending other sporting events during volleyball season.
The mother of three – daughter Maya, who’s in 8th grade at Mount Carmel, and sons Landyn (age 11) and Dominick (5) – was “trying to free up a little more of my time especially in the fall when I can give a little bit more to my kids.”
“They’re getting more involved in activities that I don’t want to miss.”
So, she’s walking away at age 39, though she will remain as athletic director.
Hagadone didn’t plan to make the announcement until after the season ended, primarily to avoid the distraction of potential successors contacting her about the soon-to-be-vacant position while she was still focused on coaching her last team.
But the coach who was won eight state championships didn’t follow her game plan nearly as well as she generally gets her teams to.
“I was emotional and it just came out,” Hagadone said.
There have been a lot of emotional moments of late.
Hagadone’s milestone victory, coming in her 16th season for an average of about 38 wins per season, came against her alma mater, Chalmette High School.
“It’s phenomenal what she has accomplished in such a short period of time,” said Kelli Plaiscia, who coached Hagadone at Chalmette and was on hand for the milestone victory.
Ten days later came the regular-season finale against John Ehret at Mount Carmel. The playoffs and more home games awaited, but this was a distinctive Senior Night.
It was a time to recognize Hagadone’s final senior class – all seven members – in their last regular-season home game.
Hagadone and this senior class are uniquely intertwined as she goes through a coach’s equivalent of a senior season, appreciating all the things that are happening for the last time for her just as they are for them.
And these seniors have known about Hagadone’s retirement plan as long as anyone.
Amid the celebration of Senior Night, Lindsey Wickersham recalled being in the workout room that sits a floor above the volleyball court inside the gymnasium. It was the middle of her freshman season – October of 2019.
“She told me,” Wickersham said of Hagadone, “‘your last year is going to be my last year.’ And I remember thinking, we have to go out with a bang.”
That senior class surely went out with bang as the Cubs won their sixth consecutive state championship.
“We’ve been trying to get back there ever since,” said senior outside hitter/right side Makayla Page.
In 2020 the streak of six consecutive state titles ended with a loss to St. Joseph’s in the semifinals.
Then, as the Cubs were preparing for the start of last season one player tested positive for COVID and the team self-quarantined for 14 days.
Next came Hurricane Ida. The start of the season was delayed, school was closed and everyone evacuated.
In early September, Hagadone’s mother, godfather and grandmother all died in a matter of days.
Eventually Mount Carmel earned a No. 3 seed and reached the state tournament in Lafayette, but again they lost to St. Joseph’s in the semifinals.
This year’s team began the playoffs with easy victories at home against Lafayette on November 3 and Ruston two days later.
Hagadone and the seniors knew that the match against Ruston would be their last home match regardless of the outcome.
“Coming in,” Hagadone said, “I tried not to let my emotions get the best of me.”
During the final timeout with the Cubs eight points from a straight-set victory, Hagadone gave her players a fiery plea to “end it now.”
As Hagadone went through the post-match victory line she high-fived her players with “a little extra.”
She praised her players for a “complete team win.”
“Everyone contributed,” the coach said. “I finally started to see some hunger in them – that fire, a sense of urgency.”
She saw a team that, like so many of her others, was performing the way championship teams are supposed to perform as they reach the state tournament.
Hagadone shed a few tears and her voice cracked as she said she could sense that her players are “working extra hard” because “they know this is my last hurrah.”
The last hurrah continues against Mandeville in the quarterfinals Thursday night in Lafayette.
“That’s our only focus right now,” Hagadone said.
If they beat a team that they are 2-0 against this season they’ll get either St. Joseph’s or Dutchtown in the semifinals Friday afternoon.
A championship match Saturday night would most likely be against top-seeded Dominican, which has won the last two Division I state titles – the only ones not won by the Cubs in the last eight years.
One can’t look at the bracket and not recognize the possibilities.
The Cubs, who are 3-0 against St. Joseph’s this season, might have an opportunity in the semifinals to vanquish the program that has ended their last two seasons in the semifinals.
They might have an opportunity to give Hagadone her 10th championship (she has one as an assistant) and Mount Carmel its 15th by eliminating Dominican, their district rival against whom they are 1-1 this season.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Hagadone said. “I would love to have a storybook ending to my career. I think that (the players) are starting to believe and they want to make it a storybook ending for them as well.”
- < PREV LSU opens McMahon era by defeating Kansas City, 74-63
- NEXT > Wrestling: Hannan, De La Salle, St. Paul’s, Lakeshore, Fontainebleau score wins Wednesday
CCS/106.1 FM/Daily Iberian
Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s 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. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…