Published 12:00 am Friday, November 14, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
Although St. Charles had defeated district rival Lutcher four consecutive times over the last two seasons, SCC Coach Brandy Ryan entered Wednesday’s regional round playoff match between the two teams well aware that nothing would come easy.
“It’s like the old saying goes,” said Ryan after her team’s bi-district win last Saturday, “It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season.”
Those words rung all too true for St. Charles, as the No. 5 seeded Bulldogs gained a measure of payback and advanced to the Division III quarterfinals of the State Volleyball Tournament with a 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-21 victory at the Pontchartrain Center.
The Comets, the tournament’s No. 12 seed, finished their season with a record of 16-14.
The win represented Lutcher’s first victory at the Pontchartrain Center in Coach Ricky LeBlanc’s tenure with the school.
LeBlanc admitted he had a great deal of nerves before the game.
“I had some butterflies,” he said. “The most I’ve had since I’ve been coming here.”
That, LeBlanc said, was largely due to the opposition, a team his Bulldogs (28-7) could not seem to solve until Saturday.
“You know, we played them a lot in the summer and beat them. But in our district games, we could never seem to get the win,” LeBlanc said. “I didn’t want to play them again. I’d seen enough of them.”
Trailing two games to one, St. Charles appeared to take control early in the decisive fourth game when it jumped out to a 7-2 lead. But Lutcher roared back to eventually tie the game at 14, and then take a 16-14 lead after two consecutive kills by Lauren Bourgeois.
The Bulldogs would tack on three more scores to go ahead 19-14, capping a 7-0 run with a Bourgeois dink. St. Charles would twice cut the lead to three, first at 21-18, then at 23-21 after a Courtney Western tip. But Lutcher closed out the game and the match after a Comets return error and an ace by Maci Matherne.
“I have to say this about our team, our girls never gave up. They kept fighting until that last point,” said Ryan. “They kept trying harder and harder to get one more point. We just fell today.”
Bourgeois led Lutcher with 17 kills and eight blocks.
“After losing the two district games, we came in really focused on what we had to do,” she said. “We concentrated on where we needed to hit the ball and finding the spots they wouldn’t be.
“It’s just so exciting. This is the farthest our school has advanced, so it’s huge for us.”
Holly Martin had 24 assists and Hannah Naquin had 10 digs for Lutcher.
For St. Charles, Meg Gustafson had 11 kills. Taylor Duhe added two blocks and Brooke Becker had two aces.
After taking an early 4-3 lead, the Bulldogs wouldn’t trail again in the opening game. Lutcher opened up a 21-15 lead, but St. Charles would cut Lutcher’s lead to 22-21 after Becker drilled a kill down the line to secure a lengthy point between the two teams. But back-to-back blocks by Bourgeois and Katie Ocmand set up a game-clinching kill by Kayla Brady.
St. Charles fired back, tying the match after a back and forth second game between the teams. With the score tied at 23, a Duhe spike dropped in and then a Lutcher return out of bounds gave SCC the win.
With the scored tied at 10 in the third game, a 7-0 run by the Bulldogs gave Lutcher enough of a cushion to hold on the rest of the way.
“Every time we adjusted, they adjusted,” said Ryan. “Lutcher kept us on our toes, they did a great job. I wish them a lot of luck in the next round and beyond.”
Said Duhe: “We kept fighting and pushing. We just let it get the best of us. We pushed hard, but I guess it wasn’t enough today.”