Lady Eagles top Sacred Heart-Grand Coteau

Central Catholic’s Megan Landry records a dig during Thursday’s Division 5 state quarterfinal contest against the Academy of Sacred Heart -- Grand Coteaux, while teammate Olivia Crawford looks on. The No. 4 seed Lady Eagles made plays all day on defense as the squad advanced to its fourth straight semifinal appearance with a 3-1 win (25-14, 17-25, 25-20, 25-17) against the No. 5 seed Saints. Landry led the Lady Eagles with 29 digs. The Lady Eagles returned to action today at 10 a.m. in the state semifinals against four-time Division 5 state champion and top seed Metairie Park Country Day. The winner advances to face the victor of No. 2 Episcopal School of Acadiana and No. 3 Ascension Episcopal in Saturday’s state title game at 11 a.m. Log onto later today to see how the Lady Eagles fared. (Photo by Diane Miller Fears)

By Geoff Stoute

KENNER — Intense. Exhilarating. Hard-fought.

They are all adjectives that would accurately describe Thursday’s Division 5 quarterfinal match between No. 4 seed Central Catholic and No. 5 seed Academy of Sacred Heart of Grand Coteau.

For Central Catholic, semifinalist now can be added to that list.

The Morgan City-based squad overcame their opponents for a 3-1 win (25-14, 17-25, 25-20, 25-17) during the opening day of the state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.

The win puts a squad that first-year Lady Eagles head coach Latashia Wise has described as rebuilt with some of the same “dynamics” as past Central Catholic squads, in the semifinals where they have fallen the past four years.

Like the “old” Lady Eagles, this squad (29-13), the No. 4 seed, will face a familiar foe in Metairie Park Country Day Friday. The top seeded Cajuns have won the last four Division 5 state titles, defeating Central Catholic in last year’s semifinal.

“I’m excited for the girls that they actually get a chance to go back to the semifinals,” Wise said. “I was asked early on in the week (was) there any pressure to get back to the semifinals? Yes, it was. Well now we’re back in the semifinals and we don’t want our story to be the same thing it’s been over the … past three years.”

To get to today’s semifinal round, the Lady Eagles had to fight off a tough Sacred Heart squad that gave Central Catholic hitters fits trying to put balls away.

While Central Catholic standout Meo Knight put down 21 kills and recorded six blocks, she had to work for many of them as Sacred Heart’s front row provided a solid block to slow down her attacks and their defense turned around and made plays on the ball to give the Sacred Heart offense opportunities to attack Central Catholic.

The Sacred Heart defense presented the same challenges for fellow Lady Eagles senior hitter Gee Garrett, who recorded 13 kills and three blocks in the win.

The Lady Eagles defense also made their mark as they made plays on tough Sacred Heart attack attempts throughout the match and at times were diving in attempts to keep balls in play.

Central Catholic recorded 91 digs in the match led by 29 from Megan Landry, 20 from Elizabeth Garber and 14 by Olivia Crawford. Knight also had 10 digs.

In Game 1, Central Catholic pulled away using a 9-2 run to turn a 10-7 advantage into a 19-9 lead.

The run included several kills by Knight.

Sacred Heart got no closer than seven points the remainder of the first game.

In game 2, it was Sacred Heart who made its move as the Saints bolted out to as much as an 11-1 lead following a ball-handling error on Central Catholic.

However, the Lady Eagles began to claw their way back into the match, cutting the deficit to six at 23-17 following a Sacred Heart ball handling error.

The Saints closed the match, though, with the final two points, including game point on Rebecca Miller’s ace.

Wise said her squad had a lapse in concentration game two and struggled with its serve receive.

“We come out in set one and we serve the ball very, very strong,” Wise said. “We come out in set two and we don’t serve receive … You can see the difference definitely. … Like I’ve been saying all year. The key to our success (is) we got to serve receive to get our ball to our hitters of our offense.”

While Central Catholic trailed just once in Game 3 following a service error, the game was tight and featured seven ties, the last at 10.

Although Central Catholic took as much as a 16-10 lead on a nifty kill by Knight, Sacred Heart didn’t go away and cut the deficit to 20-17 on a Central Catholic hitting error.

After a Central Catholic timeout, the Lady Eagles responded by taking the set.

In Game 4, Knight took over for the Lady Eagles with several kills and blocks to lead the Lady Eagles to an 11-3 lead.

Knight’s teammates, setter Kaitlyn Gros and libero Olivia Crawford added a kill and an ace, respectively, in the run.

While Sacred Heart rallied to cut the deficit to 15-14 on a Central Catholic hitting error, Central Catholic responded with a 10-3 run to close the game that included solid net play by Knight and Garrett and two Brittany Longman aces.

The game was sealed on a kill by Gros.

Longman had three aces in the match, while Gros recorded 31 assists and 12 digs.

Kathleen Boulet had 10 kills and 10 digs for Sacred Heart, while Hailey Gauthier and Jennifer Link each had three blocks, Maci Quebedeaux and MccRaney Ezell, 12 and 10 assists, respectively, and Papadokes, 12 digs.

Looking ahead to today’s contest, Central Catholic will face a Country Day squad that, like Central Catholic, has played many of Louisiana’s traditional volleyball powers. The Cajuns own notable wins against current semifinalists, E.D. White (Division 3), Notre Dame (Division 4), Archbishop Chapelle and St. Amant (Division 1) and St. Scholastica (Division 2).

The Cajuns’ only losses were to Fontainbleau (twice), St. Joseph’s Academy and Mount Carmel, all teams that qualified for the Division 1 state tournament.

Country Day advanced to today’s semifinal with a 25-11, 25-14, 25-15 win against No. 8 seed Dunham.

Wise to beat Country Day, serve receiving and more importantly, not being intimidated by the name Country Day will be important.

Of course, though, Wise said she doesn’t expect her team not to think about what happened last year and she doesn’t mind if they use it as motivation for today’s matchup.

“I told them you have a great opportunity right now,” Wise said. “This is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for all year. Since the beginning of the season when the first power rankings came out, Country Day was at the top, so we always knew the goal. Now we have the opportunity to actually take care of it.”

Today’s game will be broadcast on KBZE 105.9 FM, and if the Lady Eagles win, Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game will be as well.

The winner of the Central Catholic-Country Day matchup will face the winner of the other semifinal matchup between No. 2 seed Episcopal School of Acadiana and No. 3 seed Ascension Episcopal. That match also will be played at 10 a.m.

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