Rebels advance in dramatic fashion

Published 3:44 am Saturday, November 10, 2012



KENNER — Riverside’s volleyball players erupted in joy, many embracing one another as coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas silently raised her hands in victory.

The Rebels earned this one. Did they ever earn this one.

Riverside pushed its way into the Division IV state semifinals Thursday as it rallied from a two games to none deficit to defeat second-seeded De La Salle, 18-25, 22-25, 25-16, 26-24 and 16-14.

The Rebels not only had to defeat the Cavaliers in three straight games to survive, but saw its season teetering on the brink in the fourth game — it had to overcome a 24-21 deficit in that one to force a tiebreaking fifth.

“When you come back after going down by two games … that’s a great team. That right there is what a great team does,” said Riverside coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas, who in her first year has guided the Rebels as far as the program has ever been. “They worked too hard for this. Too many hours dating back before the season, after school, on the court and on the track.

“I asked them if they wanted it to all be in vain. And they didn’t.”

Added freshman Toni Hebert, “We knew we couldn’t afford to lose another, and we played tough … Some people doubted us, so we had to come out and prove them wrong.”

Riverside, the No. 7 seed in the bracket, advanced to face No. 3 Newman on Friday, after presstime.

Kendra Turner led Riverside (29-11) with 34 kills and 10 blocks. Danielle Sharp added 14 kills. Hebert had 39 assists, three aces and four blocks. Katie Bailey and Jordan Duhon stepped up defensively with 33 and 24 digs respectively while Taylor Terrio had 12 assists.

De La Salle (32-12) seemed to stay a couple of steps ahead of Riverside throughout the fourth game, but could never fully shake the Rebels. On three straight occasions mid-game, De La Salle scored to go ahead by two, only for Turner to slam home a kill in response.

But time seemed to be running out on Riverside as that seemingly constant two point advantage became 21-19, then 22-20, then 23-21. A Rebels error put De La Salle at match-point, but Turner spiked one home, then logged back to back blocks to tie. A Cavalier return sailed out of bounds to give Riverside a 25-24 lead, then another went long again to tie the match at two games apiece.

“That’s about being mentally strong,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “At the beginning of this season, when we started 1-6, we were mentally weak. But they’re mentally strong now. This team can respond to adversity. It started with the hurricane … They made the commitment to come together and work even harder.”

Inspired, Riverside came out of the gates on fire in the fifth game. Terrio made a block to give RA a 4-2 lead; back to back Turner kills made it 7-3, and a Terrio kill made it 9-5.

Sharp spiked a point home to make it 12-7, but De La Salle charged back to create for a dramatic finish. Rene Causey make a kill, then a Rebels spike attempt sailed out. Jonne Porter made a kill then a Rebels’ error and Sarah Oster ace tied the game at 12.

Sharp pushed the Rebels ahead again with a kill; Porter tied it up with one of her own. Then Turner and Porter traded kills. But after Turner smashed another to put Riverside ahead 15-14, De La Salle couldn’t answer, and the celebration was on.

Riverside took control of the third game with the score tied at 13; Hebert stepped up to the serving line and helped head a 7-0 Riverside run that made it 20-13. That included two Hebert aces and two Turner kills. Sharp finished the game with a kill.

De La Salle led through much of the second game, then staved off a Riverside rally that tied things at 21 by scoring four straight points to end the game, capped by a Jessica Porter kill.

Riverside led 7-2 in the first game before the Cavaliers rallied. The two teams traded runs before De La Salle sealed it with a 7-1 closing run, capped by a Causey kill.

Brittney Deckwa led De La Salle with 16 kills. Jonne Porter had 13 to go with seven blocks. Chelsea Prittchett had 34 assists, while Oster and Pritchett had 17 and 15 kills respectively.

Riverside began the season 1-6, but since then has gone 28-6, including a number of wins over highly-ranked foes — now including one very dramatic state quarterfinal victory that stands above them all.

 “We felt like we had this,” said Turner. “If we took care of what we needed to … block their main hitters, play defense, set up and finish, and play together, we feel like we can beat anyone.”