Wildcats, Rams ready to roll in volleyball

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2011



East St. John and West St. John have something in common as they prepare for the upcoming volleyball season: a very difficult district slates awaits each at season’s end.

The Wildcats play in a district that saw three teams advance to the state semifinals in Destrehan, St. Amant and Dutchtown. A fourth squad, East Ascension, reached the postseason as the No. 20 seed; the first three teams all were seeded within the top nine of Division I. West St. John had only two district foes, but both entered the postseason ranked in the top nine of Division V, including third seed and state semifinalist Central Catholic.

The Rams, though, do have high hopes for this season. Coach Brandon Dumas, entering his second season with the team, brings five starters back and said that the Lady Rams have put together a strong summer, including participating in a camp at Southeastern.

“I think we’re a lot further along than we were last year at this time,” said Dumas. “I thought the camp was key. It gave not only the girls, but myself, some ideas on different ways to approach the season. Ever since, we’ve been practicing well and playing well.”

Another reason for optimism is the return of coach Glenda Rush to the staff — Rush was the team’s longtime head coach until she stepped down in 2008. She will assist Dumas this season.

“She brings a lot of great ideas to this team and we’re all glad to have her back,” said Dumas.

Breon Sorapuru, Taj Howard and Deja Feist are among the Rams’ top returning players and help form an experienced core.

Wednesday’s jamboree at Lutcher saw the Rams put together a few impressive performances, including scrimmage victories over 5A East St. John, by a score of 27-25, and Hahnville, 25-22.

“I told them, be happy, but be humble,” said Dumas. “Especially the win over Hahnville, that was a big confidence builder. It gives you something to look forward to.

“But we have goals, so you can’t just be satisfied with that.”

The Rams did fall once to rival St. James, 25-20, a day after downing the Wildcats in a scrimmage.

“That’s a learning experience. You can’t just assume because you beat a team before that it’s going to happen again,” said Dumas. “I felt like we had a bit of a letdown there.”

East St. John, meanwhile, will be breaking in a new volleyball coach as Wildcats alumni Avignon Williams takes over for Monica Hebert, who will move to concentrate on her duties as head softball coach.

Williams said that she’s seen tremendous improvement in her players since the beginning of the summer. Where it stands out the most, she said, is in the attitude of her players.

“It’s just so much better right now,” she said. “Before, I was seeing girls maybe quit on plays, getting frustrated with themselves. Now, I see some real fight in them. They play hard every play until the end.”

Juniors Diranique Daniels and Jessica Sanford are among the team’s top returning players.

Williams describes Daniels, the Ladycats’ libero, as “relentless.”

“She really gets after every ball,” she said. “She makes accurate passes, and she’s also an offensive threat. She’ll attack from the back row.”

Sanford, the team’s setter, is another who Williams said the team can count on every day.

“She’s very consistent,” Williams said. “We can depend on both of them.”

Missing a starter, the Wildcats, Williams said, weren’t as sharp as she’d like to see at Wednesday’s jamboree.

But with a number of returning starters and some continued improvement in predistrict, the Wildcats are a team that Williams hopes to see round into a district factor by season’s end.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think we’ve improved a lot,” said Williams.

“There’s been a lot of progression, and that’s encouraging. We just have to keep it up each day.”

Be on the lookout for Riverside and St. Charles’ season previews in Wednesday’s edition.