Young, Lady Pios embark on comeback trail

Young, Lady Pios embark on comeback trail


Young, Lady Pios embark on comeback trail


Reigning All-Acadiana volleyball MVP Grace Morgan of Notre Dame

Reigning All-Acadiana volleyball MVP Grace Morgan of Notre Dame

Notre Dame volleyball coach Tara Young

Notre Dame volleyball coach Tara Young

Unless you’re John Curtis football, it happens.

Almost without exception, no matter what level of competition, no program or franchise stays on top forever.

Some dips last longer than others and the reasons for the decline vary from program to program or franchise to franchise. Some rebound quickly and others never really recover.

During my 30-plus years of covering high school sports in this area, I’ve noticed the roller coaster ride. There were once-feared programs in various sports that are barely hanging on these days. A few no longer exist.

Many of those ideas and scenarios have been rattling around in the mind of Notre Dame Lady Pios volleyball coach Tara Young since last season.

It was a scary season filled with uncertainty, not to mention about 12 or 13 more losses than the program is used to enduring in one season.

Making it even worse was was the number zero, which represented the amount of postseason wins the Lady Pios achieved last season.

Notre Dame finished the year 22-17 overall, before losing 15-13 in the fifth game to No. 10-seeded Sacred Heart of New Orleans in its first playoff game as a No. 7 seed.

Understand that Young’s program is one not used to such mediocre results. From 2007-13, the Lady Pios reached the state finals six times, including four state championships.

These days, the Lady Pios brought an encouraging 6-2 record into Wednesday’s big road match against two-time Division II state champion Teurlings Catholic. Then it’s on to the All-Catholic Tournament this weekend in New Orleans with multiple elite teams from across South Louisiana on the slate.

In effect, the 2015 is the beginning of a rebuilding process for the Lady Pios. Discussing the issue with Young is just fascinating. Truthfully, she sounds like an old-school football coach.

“I hate losing much more than I love winning,” Young said. “I wish I wasn’t that way, but I am.”

It’s a mentality that engulfs more than just coaches in today’s sports world. Many fans are that way as well. Once your team reaches a certain level of success, the wins become merely a means to an end and the losses are just pure agony.

So much so that even Young did some soul-searching this past offseason.

“I don’t think that I got complacent (last year), but I must have,” Young said. “Your team’s performance ultimately falls on the coach’s shoulders. Last season was a big wakeup call for us. It showed us that we’re not going to just float into this.”

Last year’s squad only had one senior and she was an inexperienced player and 11 juniors. By the end of the season, many of those juniors were being replaced in the lineup by underclassmen. Only five of them returned for this season.

“We’re still youthful,” Young said. “We’re still working on things like getting our defense to play as aggressively as we’re used to playing. We don’t have a bunch of club players who have just taken a month off, so most of our girls are just getting back into the swing of things.

“We’re making progress. We’re about where we need to be for now. We’re not where we need to be two months from now, but that’ll come. This is a great group. They’re doing everything we’ve asked.”

Near the top of the priority list for the Lady Pios, like it seems to be for so many teams, is consistency at setter. Senior Sammi Leger and sophomore Natalie Miller are the duo attempting to perform that critical duty.

The other change Young and her staff are dealing with this year is height with three 6-footers on this year’s roster. In the past, the Lady Pios’ success has come from short, aggressive performers on the back line.

“We’re still trying to figure out what to do with them,” Young laughed.

That trio includes reigning All-Acadiana Most Valuable Player Grace Morgan, who is a Rice signee, as well as the sophomore duo of Alyssa Williams and Madelyn Cassedy. Morgan has emerged as more of a vocal leader this season.

“Grace has made a phenomenal change as a vocal leader,” Young said. “That’s never been in her comfort zone. A year has made a big difference for her in that area. She knows we need her to be a leader.”

Time will tell how much progress the Lady Pios make this season. She knows that defining “success” may be a bit different this season than at times in the past, but it no secret. Young would love to win at least one more state title before her career ends in Crowley.

At the same time, as she embarks on the program’s comeback trail, Young continually reminds herself of what her job truly is.

“Really our job as coaches is to develop young ladies and teach them life skills that they can carry into the real world after they leave us. Deep down I know that. I want all of our girls to be successful for the rest of their lives.”

Still, there remains that intense desire burning deep inside of her to win big again.

As she reaches for the stars once again, hopefully Young, like so many of us involved in athletics, can somehow enjoy that unexpected detour to the moon.


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