Volleyball alive and well, but not so on the gridiron

Ron Brocato
SPORTS

Thirteen teams from schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans posted a combined record of 24 match victories to just 11 losses during the recently completed state volleyball championship playoffs.

Two of them – Mount Carmel Academy and Pope John Paul II – repeated as champions of Divisions I and IV, respectively. Cabrini was a Division II finalist and runner-up, and Archbishop Hannan, Ursuline and St. Scholastica did not lose a match until the semifinal round of the state tournament.

There’s no question New Orleans Catholic schools continue to excel on the volleyball court. And there seems to be no end in sight.

Pope John Paul II players congratulate teammate Camille Dedeaux (7) for being selected as the Division IV Outstanding Player after the Jaguars captured their fourth consecutive Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state volleyball championship at the Pontchartrain Center on Nov. 11. The Jags defeated Haynes, Academy of the Sacred Heart, Archbishop Hannan and Notre Dame in 14 total sets to claim their fourth consecutive state championship. (Additional tournament photos at www.clarionherald.org.)

I wish I could say the same for the prospects of a traditional Catholic League school winning a division football championship.

De La Salle, the No. 1 seed in Division II, has the best chance of playing on the Superdome carpet for a championship in December.

The numbers tell the story. There are four area Catholic schools remaining as the quarterfinal round of the Division I playoffs approaches. All are lower seeds and will play their next games on the road.

No. 9 Archbishop Rummel will return to Shreveport, where the Raiders beat Byrd last week. This time they’ll be facing the No. 1 seed, Evangel.

No. 5 St. Augustine (the highest seed of the four) will be in Baton Rouge to take on No. 4 Catholic High.

St. Scholastica chaplain Msgr. Frank Giroir cheers for the Doves during their Division II semifinal round match against Cabrini on Nov. 10.

No. 6 Brother Martin goes to No. 3 Scotlandville, and No. 7 St. Paul’s will meet No. 2 John Curtis.

All four are underdogs after winning their regional round games last week.

That leaves De La Salle, Hannan and St. Charles Catholic vying for a Division II title.

De La Salle will host Hannan at Pan American Stadium on Nov. 16 (7 p.m.). The winner will then meet either Parkview Baptist or St. Thomas More in the semis.

No. 3  St. Charles Catholic is home against No. 11 St. Louis on Nov. 16. A Comets’ victory will place them against the winner of the University Lab-Teurlings Catholic game next week.

This should be the most hotly contested division of the four. Parkview Baptist eliminated De La Salle, 34-14, in the 2016 semis, then St. Thomas More routed Parkview, 54-29, in the finals.

Well-supported programs

Give credit to several factions responsible for the success of Catholic school volleyball in this area, including the individual schools’ administrations, their most capable coaches, competitive scheduling during the regular season, off-season programs and student body and parental support the players receive.

All the schools that found a place in one of the five division brackets deserved to be there.

Mount Carmel and Pope John Paul II excelled through four straight matches during the two-week playoff period.

In winning their seventh state championship in the last 15 years, the Cubs did not lose a single set before the finals when St. Joseph’s won the third set after dropping the first two.

Pope John  Paul II overcame a few speed bumps. The Jaguars dropped a set to No. 8 Academy of the Sacred Heart but held the Cardinals to an average of 17 points per set.

They also lost a set to Hannan (25-23) before getting rid of the pesky Lady Hawks, 27-25, in the fourth set. It was a hard-fought victory that may have avenged Hannan’s 3-1 victory on the Jaguars’ home court on Oct. 18.

This semifinal round confrontation was for the unofficial state championship. The Jaguars’ sweep of Notre Dame in the finals was more of a denouement than a match.

Last year, Cabrini (30-14) was a Division II quarterfinalist. This year the Crescents lost in the championship round to unbeaten Teurlings Catholic. They have improved in each of Kasey Laird-Dennies’ seasons as their head coach.

St. Scholastica, Ursuline, Archbishop Chapelle and Hannan won two of three playoff matches before being eliminated.

A parting thought: If the LHSAA had split the volleyball playoffs as it does other key sports, the non-select finalists would have been: St. Amant vs. Northshore in Class 5A, Assumption vs. Ben Franklin in 4A, Brusly vs. Westlake in 3A, Haynes vs. Port Allen in 2A and False River vs. West St. John in 1A.

Hardly worth turning the Pontchartrain Center’s lights on.

Ron Brocato can be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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