Rebels off to 2-0 start

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, September 7, 2013


LAPLACE—Last season, it took the Riverside volleyball team a little time to get on track, the Rebels starting slow while adjusting to the aftermath of Hurricane Issac and a new head coach.
This year? Not so much.
The Rebels are 2-0 and haven’t dropped a single set this season after besting host St. Martin’s Thursday, 25-11, 25-18 and 26-24. That win came on the heels of a 25-12, 25-14 and 25-16 victory at home over St. John-Plaquemine Tuesday.
Kendra Turner had 19 kills, five blocks and six digs for Riverside in Thursday’s win. Toni Hebert had eight kills, four aces and 15 assists. Jordan Duhon added 13 digs while Briley Becker served four aces.
After taking the Rebels to the Division IV state semifinals in her first season as coach in 2012, Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas said that this year’s team has the mettle to take things a step further — and it starts with attitude.
“The hustle and the heart is absolutely there this year,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “These girls are playing with a purpose. Last year, our team had a lot of skill, but now I see the skill combined with desire.”
Turner concurred with her coach’s thoughts.
“We’re coming out with more intensity,” said Turner. “We’re communicating with one another so much better. When I’m in the back row, the liberos and I are giving the girls up front an idea of where to hit the ball. I think we’re bonding more off the court and it’s showing up in our play.”
The Rebels dominated the first game, leading 17-2 at one point, but had to fend off a scrappy Saints team from coming back late in the second and third games.
Riverside led 22-16 in the final game when St. Martin’s roared to a comeback, scoring seven of the game’s next eight points and tying things at 23 on Alayna Adolph’s kill. Each team committed an error to make it a 24-24 tie, but Riverside dug in on defense and outlasted the Saints to earn each of the next two points, both on returns out of play.
“At 24-24, that all comes down to who really wants it,” said Lucas-Nicholas.
Turner controlled the early portion of the third game, scoring five kills and an ace to account for six of RA’s first eight points.
The Rebels began the second game on a roll after Becker served three aces in a row to start things off. A kill by Hailey Tassin and a tip by Hebert helped push the lead to 12-6. Cameron Hymel’s kill halted a three point run by St. Martin’s, and Riverside went on to build a 17-10 advantage.
But St. Martin’s took advantage of a rash of Riverside mistakes to climb within two at 18-16. Turner stepped up with a block and a kill to make it 19-16 and then 20-17. Her hard shot from the middle of the court found an open spot to make it 21-18. Each score followed one from the opposition, and it seemed to kill the Saints’ momentum.
RA earned a hard fought 24th point after a Turner pancake and Hebert putaway, and Hymel served an ace to close things out.
“After the first set, we made some adjustments. We talked about where they like to hit and how they serve really deep,” said St. Martin’s coach Ray Scioneaux. “Mostly, we talked about staying aggressive. I thought we were a little tentative early.
“Riverside has a good lineup with a powerful hitter in (Turner). She can hit a lot of different shots, so it’s hard to adjust and take any one thing away.”
In the first game, an Hebert tip and ace ignited a 13-0 run that all but put the Saints away.
Lucas-Nicholas said that while she was proud of her team for besting a quality foe on the road, she wants to see more of a finisher’s instinct late in games.
“We’ve got to learn how to close out teams,” she said. “Don’t lose focus, don’t make the mistakes that allow a team to climb back into it and take it from you.”
Against St. John-Plaquemine, Turner finished with 15 kills and nine aces. Hymel had 14 assists and six kills. Duhon racked up 15 digs and seven aces.
A constant through both games has been the Rebels’ reliance on a number of hitters to finish plays. After Riverside’s semifinal loss to Newman last season, Lucas-Nicholas said that overreliance on the 6-foot-2-inch Turner to carry the offense hindered the Rebels’ chances to advance.
“I’ve been preaching that,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “We know what kind of hitter Kendra is. We know she can carry the offense. But you need more than just one. Every girl is on this team for a reason. They’ve each got an important job to do, and if everyone does that job, we’re going to get to where we want to be.”