Volleyball excitement spikes ahead of season

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

RESERVE — With the 2016 volleyball season ready to begin next week, changes are afoot.

The East St. John team was stunned when, just days before the start of their season, it was announced  coach Chelsey Lucas-Nicholas had been hired as the new head coach at Alcorn State University.

Lucas-Nicholas’ longtime assistant coach Jarranisha Allen will lead the Lady Wildcats.

At West St. John, Dayna Nicholas was just hired to lead the team. She was holding tryouts Monday and Tuesday.

Only Riverside Academy and St. Charles Catholic retained their coaches, who have high hopes for the upcoming season.

Riverside coach Margot Frederick, who took over for Lucas-Nicholas last year when she suddenly departed for East St. John, is in the enviable position of returning just about her entire team intact. The Lady Rebels finished 25-15 last season and were the runner-up in District 5-IV. They were the only St. John the Baptist Parish team to make it to the Pontchartrain Center for the annual state tournament, where they lost in the quarterfinals.

Frederick said this year’s team is just as solid with the return of L’OBSERVATEUR’s 2015 Volleyball Player of the Year Sydney Joseph, along with returning team members Briley Becker, Abby Bourgeois and Maddie Duhon. The Rebels also return Toni Perrin, who took last year off to concentrate on softball. She has since committed to play softball at McNeese State.

“We didn’t graduate anyone,” Frederick said. “The goal for this year is to make it further this year. We would love to win the district. That’s going to be hard to do because of Curtis. We’d love to make it to the Final Four. Our goals are high.”

Riverside opens its season Monday at home against Thibodaux.

East St. John’s new coach is not exactly a newcomer. Allen, a native of Thibodaux, assisted Lucas-Nicholas at Riverside and at East St. John.

“She’s been with me for a while,” Lucas-Nicholas said. “I would say she is absolutely capable of leading the team. She knows what it takes to win.”

Allen said the change came as a surprise to everyone. She will be juggling her duties along with finishing her senior year at Dillard University.

“I’ve been an assistant for three years now,” she said. “I never would have imagined I would be a head coach. It’s a great opportunity for me. I know Coach Lucas said she wanted me to do it. I’m passionate about it. I don’t mind doing it at all. The girls are great. They know the game of volleyball.”

The Wildcats finished 15-21 last season in a tough district against Hahnville, Destrehan, H.L. Bourgeois and Thibodaux.

“Last year we had a lot of talent, they just had to get used to us,” Allen said. “We moved things around, changed things around. Some days it worked; some days it didn’t. The system is the same.”

She returns three seniors, including Maya Lee, LaDeja Harris and Brooke Arceneaux.

East St. John opens its season Tuesday at home against Northlake Christian.

St. Charles Catholic finished the 2015 season at .500 with a record of 18-18 after reaching the regional round of the playoffs. The Lady Comets then graduated a load of talent, including Alyssa Arceneaux, Maddie Murphy and Lela Hill.

They will be counting on junior Grace Mohon, who had 182 kills, 57 aces and 192 digs last season.

The Comets open their season Wednesday at home against Walker.

West St. John is pretty much starting from scratch with one senior.

Nicholas said she wants to see this team improve on its two victories last season.

“I want to see them double that,” she said. The Lady Rams’ season-opener was still being finalized at press time.