Three followed the yellow brick road; two found Oz
Lions, and Jaguars, and Cubs!
Three traveled the winding yellow brick road to reach the ultimate goal they sought. And although the City of Kenner is no Emerald City by any stretch of the imagination, two travelers did find their magical Land of Oz.
It was inside the Pontchartrain Center where the Pope John Paul II Jaguars and Mount Carmel Cubs captured division state volleyball championships following three days and nights of play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA tournament, Nov. 13-15.
Ursuline Academy nearly reached the outskirts of the Merry Old Land and played for its fifth Division III championship under coach Jay Jay Juan. But the Lions fell short against the top seed and eventual champion, Teurlings Catholic.
Mount Carmel was no stranger to the venue. That school has now won nine Division I titles, five since the year 2000.
But none was sweeter than this one, earned in the Cubs’ 18th championship match appearance when they knocked off the No. 1 seed – and the only team to defeat them – St. Joseph’s Academy.
And Coach April Hagadone’s feisty group did it in a way that left no doubt which was the better team. They won in three games!
St. Joe, a nine-time champion and defending titlist, fought hard, but lost the battle of attrition by the scores of 25-23, 25-17, 26-24.
Mount Carmel was loaded with talent, from all-everything senior outside hitter, Katie Kampen, through its deep roster of experience.
As a No. 2 seed, MCA defeated Acadiana, district rival Dominican and Barbe to gain a championship-round berth. They won all 12 games of tournament play and finished the season with a 47-2 record.
St. Joseph’s, whose only losses were to “the Brown Team,” ended with a 44-3 record.
Landmark win for Jags
While Mount Carmel’s only dilemma is to find space for another trophy in its showcase, Pope John Paul II’s players and fans are no less proud.
The Jaguars had never won a volleyball championship. The farthest they had advanced was to the quarterfinal rounds in 2004, 2007 and 2013, in which their seasons came to abrupt ends against higher seeds.
But this year was different because of the senior leadership of Christina Cutura, Allison Hartmann and defensive specialist Caitlyn Battistella, who was always ready to step in.
And it didn’t hurt to have former Fontainebleau coach Danny Tullis on the bench as an “advisor.”
Although this was their first title, it was obvious from the start of the season that the Jaguars would be the team to beat. Three of their losses came against state champions – Division I Mount Carmel, Division III St. Thomas More and Division V Country Day – in best-of-three tournament play. Another was to St. Joseph’s.
The Slidell team made short work of Catholic of New Iberia, Episcopal, University Lab and Newman (in the finals) by winning all four matches in three games.
Lions roar to the finals
Under Juan’s tutelage, Ursuline has had one of the best records in Division III. Since his arrival in 2009, the Lions have won championships in 2009, 2011 and 2012 with second-place finishes in 2010 and 2014.
What’s amazing about this state runner-up team is that it has just one senior, Logan Franovich. And Juan won 37 of 49 matches with this junior-laden squad.
The Lions easily defeated Thomas Jefferson and Iota, then survived a grueling struggle with E.D. White before pulling out a 15-7 win in the fifth game after dropping the fourth. They fell to No. 1 seed and defending champion Teurlings Catholic in three games.
11 sought the prize
Eleven schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans were represented in four of the five divisions.
St. Scholastica was the highest seed among the eight teams that were eliminated before the final round.
A No. 2 seed, coach Lauren Beattie’s Doves won three tournament games before losing to eventual champion St. Thomas More in the semifinal round to end their Division II run with a 37-7 record.
No. 10 Academy of the Sacred Heart avenged two district losses to champion McGehee by sweeping and eliminating the No. 2 seed. The Cardinals then lost to Newman in four games.
Outstanding seasons came to an end in the quarterfinal round for Archbishop Hannan, Dominican, Archbishop Chapelle, Academy of Our Lady, De La Salle and Cabrini.
And there is football
Two playoff football games locally pair District 11-3A rivals De La Salle (8-3) at St. Charles Catholic (8-2) on Nov. 21, and Archbishop Rummel (10-0) will host Teurlings Catholic (9-1) at Yenni Stadium on Nov. 22. Both games will kick off at 7 p.m.