Several years ago, when the Louisiana High School Coaches Association added the sport of volleyball to its weekend of All-Star games, they used the Mississippi River as the dividing line between East and West teams.
I always felt the line of demarcation should have been Bayou St. John.
The bulk of the state’s top volleyball talent lies in the Catholic and private schools of New Orleans.
That was once again proven at the Nov. 11-13 Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA state championship tournament.
Nine schools located in New Orleans, and another nine from surrounding burgs, were among the championship contenders in Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
And, speaking of the number nine, that’s how many teams from schools under the Archdiocese of New Orleans umbrella competed for one of four division titles.
The tally was two state championships and two runner-up trophies for the local Catholic schools.
Mount Carmel and Pope John Paul II led the way by winning their third consecutive division championships.
By defeating Baton Rouge nemesis St. Joseph’s Academy, the Cubs will have to find space in their overcrowded awards showcase to fit an 11th championship trophy.
It took five grueling sets to claim the Division I championship and a final record of 38-11.
The 26-24, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-11 victory marked the third Mount Carmel win over the Redstickers this season. The Cubs beat St. Joe twice in three regular-season matches.
Youth will be served
The nine local Catholic school participants return next year even stronger. The numbers speak for themselves: 79 percent (113 of 143) players on their rosters are expected to return for the 2017 season, including most of their best athletes.
➤ Division I quarterfinalist Archbishop Chapelle lists 13 of 14 players as underclassmen.
➤ Division IV runner-up Archbishop Hannan is expected to return with 17 of 19 varsity players.
➤ Three-time Division IV champion Pope John Paul II is back with 16 of 18 underclassmen, including the division’s Outstanding Player, Ansley Tullis, a freshman who combined with junior Camille Dedeaux for 42 kills in the title game.
➤ Division II quarterfinalist Cabrini returns 15 of 18 squadmen.
➤ Division II semifinalist Academy of Our Lady lists 14 of 17 players returning to class in the fall.
➤ Division III runner-up Ursuline Academy will be stocked with nine returning players to make another run at a title.
➤ St. Scholastica, which advanced to the semifinals following a four-set victory over Cabrini, shows a roster of eight returning players from its 12-player list.
➤ And Mount Carmel loses eight seniors but is loaded with 10 talented underclassmen, which include the Division I Outstanding Player Ellie Holzman and an impressive list of young talent waiting to move up to the varsity level.
Arguably, the most dominant team in the entire tournament was that of Pope John Paul II.
The Lady Jags roared through the regular season by winning 37 of 38 matches. The lone defeat came against Mount Carmel on Oct. 15. Two days later, they added the Division I champion to their win ledger for the second time.
The record also shows that Coach Rachel Battistella’s team defeated 11 opponents that made it as far as the state quarterfinals, including three division champions: Mount Carmel, St. Thomas More (II) and Country Day (V).
Among the other giants to be humbled were Mandeville, Central Catholic, St. Amant, Assumption, Vandebilt Catholic and St. Joseph’s Academy. The final tally: 41 wins, 1 loss.
Ron Brocato can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.