Spikers ready to take to court

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 28, 2009


Things have changed just a wee bit on the St. John the Baptist Parish volleyball scene.

Four new head coaches take over in 2009 at East St. John, St. Charles, Riverside and West St. John, and the action is set to begin for all four next week.

For St. Charles, a brief, yet very successful stay in Class 3A comes to an end with the school’s move back to 2A. The Comets come off of two undefeated district championships, but that feat will be quite tough to do for a third straight season given the talent in District 7-IV. Rivals in John Curtis and Riverside have each been strong, and St. James is improving.

Former Comet player Kelly Cupit now stands at the helm as head coach, succeeding Brandy Ryan. Cupit says that she’s excited about the competition the district brings.

“This is the biggest team we’ve had in years,” Cupit says. “I think we’re in great position this year and for years to come. District play this year should be a great challenge for us, but I think we’re ready to take that on.”

Courtney Western, Meg Gustafson, and Kadie Levatino are all returning senior starters for SCC, while a fourth senior, Racheal McNulty, returns to the team after missing 2008 with injury.

Cupit says Western and Gustafson are players to watch after tremendous seasons a year ago.

Riverside, meanwhile, sees Kristy Hebert take over coaching duties from Mandy Luminais.

Hebert stepped aside from her duties coaching girls basketball with the Rebels when the school hired Chuck Dorvin to take over that program, and she says she’s very excited about the upcoming volleyball season.

In regards to District 7-IV, she says the competition is a positive.

“The better competition you play, the better you’ll be,” says Hebert, who was assistant volleyball coach in her first season at John Curtis in 1997. “It prepares you for the playoffs. Curtis is going to be very strong. They’ve lost only one girl. And St. Charles, no matter what it’s always gonna be a game, that rivalry and all.”

Three starters return for Riverside — senior Kaitlyn Millet and juniors Shea Lafountain and Aimee Williamson.

“Those three are experienced. They’ve had a lot of playing time over the last two seasons,” said Hebert. “We’ve got 16 girls total, and a lot of new faces too. These girls mesh well with one another. They’re all very competitive.”

The team hopes to make a third straight trip to the Pontchartrain Center for the state volleyball tournament, while also reclaiming the district crown it earned in 2006 and 2007 before dropping it to Curtis last season.

West St. John sees Valerie Gauthier step in as coach for Glenda Rush, who leaves the team after seven seasons.

She hopes to push an experienced Rams team to the next level. All six starters return, including seniors Kyla Morris, Talor Lewis, Kori Hebert and Malana Farnell.

“We should have a really strong team this year,” says Gauthier. “We’ve got 20 players, and the whole starting unit returns intact. Our four seniors have been role models for our younger girls — they’re always willing to help their teammates improve.”

District 6-V represents a difference for the Rams — it’s a smaller district than WSJ faced a season ago, and their opponents are different — Houma Christian and Central Catholic.

Only two opponents means each game will be that much more important, Gauthier says.

“You can’t afford any mess ups,” she says. “You’ll see them so much that you’ll know their weaknesses. At the same time, they’ll see ours.

“We’re going to have to work hard to improve ourselves after each game.”

East St. John, meanwhile, sees Vivian Aubert step into the head coaching role, as Monica Hebert slides over into an assistant role after two years in the head coaching role.

The Wildcats are very young and in a tough district, along with rivals Destrehan and Hahnville as well as St. Amant, Dutchtown and East Ascension. ESJ returns no starters and rosters only two seniors, Dynekia Sanders and Tykee Anderson.

Aubert calls Anderson and Darichelle Sampson potential impact players at middle blocker and libero, respectively.

“Dynekia is very vocal in the back row for us,” said Aubert. “She’s a leader. And Tykee is one of our hardest workers and most aggressive players.”

Aubert said the focus early in the season will be on teaching such a young squad how to win and finish matches.

St. Charles will kick its season off Thursday at 4 p.m. against East St. John. The Wildcats will begin two days earlier, against Covington at 4 p.m. Tuesday. West St. John begins Monday at home against South Lafourche at 5 p.m., while Riverside begins Tuesday on the road at Houma Christian at 4 p.m.