Riverside holds off Jaguar rally

Published 4:20 am Saturday, November 16, 2013


LAPLACE – While Pope John Paul refused to make it easy for Riverside, the Rebels secured their second trip to the Division IV state semifinals in as many years Thursday.
Kendra Turner spiked down the final point, one of her 27 kills, to clinch a dramatic 26-24, 25-15, 23-25, 27-25 victory at the Pontchartrain Center and send Riverside to its second-ever state semifinal berth.
“It’s a big accomplishment to know we’ve made it back,” said Turner. “But we’ve got to take the next step now.’
“We’ve got a young team, only three seniors. I thought the younger girls might be scared, but they came out and played like they’ve been here before.”
The Rebels were scheduled to face top-seeded Notre Dame Friday morning. Check L’Observateur.com today for those results and for results of a potential championship game. Full results will be in the next issue.
Turner added eight blocks along with her match-leading kill count. Tyjah Greenup finished with 10 kills for Riverside (36-9). Briley Becker served five aces. Toni Hebert made 27 assists and served two aces. While Dani Hebert made 15 assists. Hailey Tassin made three blocks.
For Pope John Paul, Christina Cutura made 21 kills. Marlena Cutera and Allisa Hartman each added 11. Baillee Maillet made 47 assists. Milayne Danna had 21 digs while Marlena Cutura added 20.
In each game, the Rebels jumped out to big early leads—the Rebels led 19-10, 20-11, 13-3 and 9-3 to begin each of the four games. But all but the second came down to the wire, with Pope John Paul doing plenty of damage when Turner was rotated to the back line.
“You can’t rush volleyball, and I think that became an issue for us,” said Riverside coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas. “You’ve gotta let the game come to you. You can’t just jump to point 25, you’ve gotta work your way up to it, earn every point and stick to the gameplan whether you’re up one or up 10.”
Riverside was on the verge of a clean sweep after taking a commanding 13-3 lead in the third game. But after RA took a 16-8 lead, the Jaguars came roaring back, scoring eight consecutive points on a run sparked by a Christina Cutura kill. Marlena Cutura tied things up with a kill and the teams began trading points until, with the score tied at 23, Hartmann and Marlena Cutura scored on consecutive spikes to give PJP its first win.
The Rebels surged out in the fourth game, but PJP again rallied and at one point led 19-16. Christina Cutura’s ace eventually gave PJP a 24-21 advantage, but Riverside turned things after a Turner spike. Maya Bolden’s block cut the Jaguar lead to one and a Turner block tied things up.
The two teams traded points to tie things at 25. But Turner had already heated up — she slammed down kills to earn each of the next two points, and her team the match. The senior accounted for five of the Rebels’ final six points in the match.
The Jaguars appeared primed to steal the first game after a sudden 14-1 run erased Riverside’s nine point lead, Marlena Cutura’s kill giving PJP a 24-20 lead.
But the Rebels made a comeback of their own with Becker on the serving line, scoring six straight points to seal the 1-0 lead. A Greenup kill started the run, while Cameron Hymel added two of her own, including the game-sealer.
Becker, an 8th grader making her first appearance at the state tournament, made an impression upon her coach.
“For my eighth grader to come through like she did and make those serves, having never been here before, that was just huge for us,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “We had her as an eighth grader, and a freshman playing back line … with three courts, so much going on, and they didn’t let it affect them.”
Becker said she was nervous before the tournament, but her jitters washed away once play began.
“I just took deep breaths and thought to myself, ‘Just get it over,’” said Becker of her serves. “I felt some nerves, but I love the game. I just trusted my technique.”
Riverside seized control of the second game early and never relinquished it, scoring the final three points on a Hailee Eldridge block, a Hymel ace and a Turner spike.
“It’s all mental once you get here,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “The best teams and athletes are here. You’ve got to be mentally stronger. I thought we regrouped well … I’m excited and so proud of them.”