Pioneers defeat Rebs at state tourney

Published 2:30 am Wednesday, November 20, 2013


LAPLACE – Riverside played like a team intent on ending top-seeded Notre Dame’s run of consecutive state championship game appearances at four on Friday morning.
But though the Rebels fought valiantly, the Pioneers wouldn’t be denied their fourth straight trip, the defending Division IV state champion advancing after a four-game victory, 25-9, 24-26, 34-32, 25-23 in a state semifinal game.
“I’m disappointed in the loss, but not in how our girls fought,” said Riverside coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas. “I felt we could have pulled it off, for sure. But against a team like that, you have to almost play an errorless game. We didn’t do that, but when we made mistakes, we didn’t crumble. We fought back and said, ‘We’re gonna get this next point.’
“Notre Dame’s a multi-time defending champion, but our girls weren’t intimidated. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Notre Dame (38-5) went on to fall to in five games to new state champion Newman in a rematch of the 2012 Division IV championship. The Pioneers were seeking a fourth straight state championship.
Kendra Turner led the Rebels (36-10) with 25 kills. Dani Hebert made 24 assists and Briley Becker made 38 digs.
Lindsey Meyer led the Pioneers with 21 kills while Grace Morgan added 18. Alli Daigle had 30 digs.
Notre Dame overwhelmed Riverside in the first set, but the teams played a heated, nearly dead-even match the rest of the way.
That was highlighted by the third game, seemingly a challenge of “Can you top this?” between the teams once each scored its 25th point.
Kills by Harley Bellard and Grace Morgan were answered by a trio of spikes by Turner, leaving the teams tied up at 29. Grace Morgan gave Notre Dame a 30-29 lead, but a serving error made it 30-30 again. Morgan slammed another kill, this one answered by Hailee Eldridge. Then the Rebels’ Toni Hebert responded to a Meyer kill with one of her own to knot it up at 32.
But Notre Dame finally shook free, earning the win on consecutive kills by Bellard and Morgan.
“It was huge,” said Notre Dame coach Tara Young. “We were down before the 25th point, then we had the advantage. Our girls showed so much resiliency. We weren’t perfect, but we showed resiliency in playing through mistakes.”
The Pioneers trailed the Rebels 18-13 in the game before rallying.
“We’ve played in tight games like that before. Maybe not into the 30’s,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “But we’ve gotten used to it. I thought our players showed how mentally strong they’ve become.’
“But it was tense. My head was throbbing at one point because of how loud it was.”
Neither team was able to shake free of the other until the final moments of the fourth and final game — neither team led by more than three at any point.
Riverside took a two-point lead, 21-19, on a Jordan Duhon ace. Notre Dame scored three straight to fire back and take a 22-21 lead. A Pioneers serving error tied things up, but Morgan slammed home two kills to bring Notre Dame to match-point. Riverside survived for one more point on a Turner kill, but it proved the final score of the Rebels’ season.
Riverside evened the match at a game apiece with a hard-fought 26-24 win in the second set, capping that with three consecutive kills by Turner.
It was the final match for senior Rebel starters Turner, Duhon and Maya Bolden.
For Turner, it ends a two year run with the Rebels that saw her emerge as one of the state’s most dominant volleyball players.
“She’s come so far as a leader both on and off the court,” said Lucas-Nicholas. “We’ve tried to impart in her that it’s gonna take more than volleyball skill and talent to make it.’
“You’ve got to me more than just good on the court. She grew so much not just as a volleyball player, but also as a young lady, this season.”