Rebels down Pats, secure district share

Published 11:45 pm Friday, October 12, 2012



RIVER RIDGE — After winning the second game to even its Thursday match with Riverside at a game apiece, the stage seemed set for host John Curtis to turn the momentum its way and to avenge an earlier district loss to the Rebels.

But the Lady Rebels had other ideas.

Riverside regrouped and earned victory in each of the next two games to capture a critical District 4-IV victory over the top-ranked Patriots, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 and 25-21.

The win clinched at least a share of the District 4-IV title for Riverside and all but assured an outright championship; the Rebels would have to suffer consecutive upset losses to St. James and Donaldsonville for Curtis to tie RA atop the standings.

Curtis entered the game ranked first in Division IV power points. Riverside was ranked seventh. RA defeated Curtis at Riverside on Sept. 25 in four games.

Kendra Turner had 26 kills and five blocks for the Rebels. Toni Hebert had 22 assists, 13 digs, three kills and two aces. Taylor Terrio had 13 assists, three kills and 14 digs. Danielle Sharp had seven kills. Katie Bailey had 13 digs and two aces.

“We knew they’d have a big crowd today,” said Hebert. “We had to have this one. We all had each other’s backs.”

Turner said that the Patriots’ top-rank served as motivation.

“We beat them in the first game, and we felt like we were the better team,” said Turner. “We expected them to be tougher this time around and they were. We dug deep in the end and pulled it out.”

After a 1-6 start to the season, Riverside (21-9, 6-0) has cemented itself as one of Division IV’s top contenders; the Rebels are winners 15 of their last 16 , including two wins over the state’s top-ranked team.

“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think they knew how good they really were,” said Riverside coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas, who has now guided the Rebels to a district championship in her first season with the team. “They realize it now. They know they can be a top team in the state.

“Before, it was just, ‘We’re playing to play. We’re playing the season.’ But they’re grasping that this is a moment that you have to capture.”

The Rebels began their run in mid-September. But the return of Turner to the lineup for a Sept. 20 district clash with St. Charles jolted the Rebels onto the state radar; the 6-foot-2 Turner has led the team in kills since, and on Thursday proved to be a riddle that Curtis couldn’t solve.

“For us, the strategy is to feed her early, then feed someone else,” said Riverside coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas. “She’s a big distraction on the floor for the opposition. We realized after the last game with Curtis that we need to keep her moving … Curtis was triple-blocking her. We wanted to keep her on the move and make it more difficult on them.”

Curtis’ gym was decorated in pink for the match; proceeds benefited the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research.

The final game of Thursday’s set was a back-and-forth affair befitting of a district championship clash between two of the state’s top teams.

Riverside surged ahead to an 8-4 lead, but Curtis climbed back — back to back kills by Kelsie Oestriecher pulled JCC within two at 10-8, and a pair of Riverside errors tied things up at 10.

Sharp slammed a kill to give RA the lead again before Curtis went on a 4-0 run, including a kill by Carsyn Wallow.

Another lead change commenced as a Sharp kill and two Turner putaways pushed Riverside ahead. Elizabeth Melancon tied it up for Curtis on a kill; the Patriots went ahead 16-15, but two Turner kills lifted Riverside again to a 17-16 lead. An ace by Tatiana Bell gave the Patriots an 18-17 lead, but a Turner kill and a tip by Maya Bolden made it 19-18 Rebels.

That was the last time the lead changed hands. Turner powered home a kill to make it 21-19; a kill attempt by Bell found the net to push RA ahead 22-19. Turner served an ace, then a Curtis serve never crossed the net. Riverside put things away one play later, and a celebration was on.

Riverside won the third game largely on the back of a 9-0 run that began with Riverside down 10-9. A Turner kill, a Sharp tip and a Duhon ace helped fuel that run, which left RA ahead 18-10. A Curtis 6-0 run made things interesting late, but JCC never pulled closer than four.

The Lady Patriots controlled the lead for most of the second game, their lone win of the day; after a 3-0 Rebel lead, Curtis scored four in a row and never trailed again. Spikes by Melancon and Sarah Drake gave JCC its biggest lead of the game at 19-14. Riverside rallied; a Terrio kill made it 20-17, and the Rebels won three of the ensuing four points to pull within one at 21-20. Curtis finished things off on a 4-0 run, though, including two Carsyn Wallow kills.

“We didn’t work as well as a team in that game,” said Hebert. “We came together again after that.”

Likewise, Riverside never trailed after an early 6-5 deficit in game one. A Turner ace gave Riverside a 7-6 lead; Sharp heated up and scored the Rebels’ next three points on kills to make it 12-8. A Bailey ace and Cameron Hymel block made it 15-9. Curtis pulled within two late at 22-20, but a Bailey ace and an errant Curtis serve secured the clinching scores for RA.

“We set a goal at the beginning of the season. We want to win state. But to win state, first you have to win district. Then, you win in the regional,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “

To do that, you have to work for it. And they’re putting in the work. They believe it.”