For the vast majority of the season, Teurlings Catholic head coach Terry Hebert has believed his Lady Rebels had everything required in order to make a run at what would be the school’s first-ever volleyball state championship.
After earning a No. 1 seed and a first round bye, the Rebels (24-11) begin their quest at a return trip to the state volleyball tournament in Kenner when they play host to Haynes Academy at 7 p.m. on Monday.
“We’re about as ready as we can be,” Hebert said. “It’s always a long week when you’re not playing and because of that you have to get creative with practices. But we were a little banged up, so I think the off time has really done us some good. The girls have really responded well.”
Hebert doesn’t know a whole lot about Haynes Academy, but he’s aware that they have at least one weapon that the Lady Rebels must be concerned with.
“I know they have one hitter who is really good,” Hebert said. “Apparently, they like to feed her the ball all-around the court. But obviously Haynes Academy is capable of taking care of business.”
Hebert, who possess a great deal of talent throughout is lineup, believes minimizing their errors will be key to whether the Lady Rebels advance to the state tournament or not.
“We’ve had a couple of times this year where we have put ourselves in position to win a match only to give it away with errors,” Hebert said. “Whether it’s been serving errors or communication errors, we’ve found a way to give it away. When we control our errors were a good team.”
Lady Pios taking familiar road
In the past three years, the Notre Dame Lady Pioneers have made it to the finals three times and have won two state championships both of which have come in the past two seasons.
Although one may be concerned with the team possibly not being as sharp having not played in a week due to earning the No. 1 seed and a bye, head coach Tara Young is confident her Lady Pios are right where they need to be.
“I’m not overly concerned about the fact that we haven’t played a match in a week,” Young said. “I feel like we have had five intense practices this past week. It’s the first time in quite a while that we’ve been have a good stretch of practices like we had this past week. I like where we’re at going into this game.”
The Lady Pios, who are 31-10 overall, will play host to Port Allen on Monday at 6 p.m. for the opportunity to make a return trip to the state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
“We are right where we need to be,” Young said. “We’re in a good place right now. We understand that right now it’s one and you’re done. So, we’re not taking anyone lightly.”
After having to “kick, scratch and claw,” their way to a No. 1 seed and a first round bye, the Lady Pios maintain they have a lot left to accomplish including the winning of a third straight state championship.
“Our kids are really level headed,” Young said. “They are fired up about being the No. 1 seed because we worked so hard to get it, but they aren’t dwelling on it and neither are was coaches. We’re all ready to move on.”
Young maintains her preseason stance that the season will not be defined by whether they win their third consecutive state championship, citing how enjoyable the journey thus far has been.
“It’s not championship or bust,” Young said. “There’s no doubt we are all going to be extremely disappointed if we don’t win a state championship, but it’s been an awesome season. This is a phenomenal team and whether we win the state championship or not, these girls are still champions in my book.”
But without hesitation, Young declared the Lady Pios as a championship caliber team.
“This is without question a championship team,” Young said. “That’s not something I’ve always said about my teams, but we have a lot of weapons. Not a lot of teams can say that. Most teams have one or two weapons, but we have six. Now, we still have to show up ready to play, but this is a championship team.”
McCown, Saints ready to return
The Saints, who improved to 13-16 overall following their first round win on Thursday over West St. John, will travel to face No. 8 seed Catholic High of Pointe Coupee on Monday at 6 p.m. with a trip to the state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner on the line.
“This won’t be the first time that we have seen Catholic High of Pointe Coupee,” McCown said. “They are a small team and they are very young. They are a very fundamental and scrappy team, but they don’t have the big threat offensively like we do.”
In their only meeting this season, the Saints swept Catholic High of Pointe Coupee in two sets 25-20, 25-21 in a match in the Ascension Episcopal tournament earlier this season.
“When we played Catholic High of Pointe Coupee, it was really early in the season,” McCown said. “We have definitely gotten a lot better since then and undoubtedly they have gotten better since then as well. I believe the match is in our hands as long as we can minimize our errors and capitalize when we get the chance to.”
McCown admits there she is concerned about playing on the road, but hopes the fact that Catholic High of Pointe Coupee earned a first round bye will lead to them not being as sharp.
“My biggest concern is the fact that we have to travel so far and we won’t have as many of our fans at the game as we would if it were at home,” McCown said. “Also, they’ve had a full week to just practice, but hopefully because they haven’t played in a match in a week it will be a blessing in disguise for us.”
Earning a spot in the state volleyball tournament this season is important not only for this year’s team but for Saints teams in the future according to McCown.
“I know getting to the state tournament is very important to our seniors, but not just because this is their last year,” McCown said.
Follow assistant sports editor Eric Narcisse on Twitter @tdanarcisse.