Winning volleyball has become a tradition at Country Day.
And this year, it’s a family tradition.
The Cajuns are seeking their fifth straight Division IV state championship with much of their hopes riding on freshman setter Jenna Ibieta, whose mother, Julie, is the coach.
Except that Julie is not one to play favorites.
“We do not discuss volleyball outside the gym,” Julie Ibieta said.
“We sometimes get into little fights, sometimes big fights,” Jenna Ibieta said.
But sophomore outside hitter Tia Bierria added, “If someone walked into practice, you couldn’t tell Jenna was her daughter unless she called her ‘Mom.’ ”
Jenna Ibieta was an integral part of the Cajuns’ championship team last year as an eighth-grader.
But the star was five-time all-state outside hitter Katherine Broussard, who signed with Howard.
Broussard was such a dominant force that when jerseys for this season were being handed out and one of the younger players requested No. 7, she was quickly reminded that it wasn’t available because it was Broussard’s number.
Outside hitter Allie Cimini and libero Victoria Waguespack were the other seniors from a team that finished 40-6.
Country Day has dealt with young talent before. The team entered the 2012 season short five seniors from their three-peat.
They regrouped. But then again, they still had Broussard.
“We’ll be very young this year, but I can’t say we’re inexperienced,” Julie Ibieta said.
Some of that experience will come from Jenna Ibieta.
“No one could believe that she was an eighth-grader last year,” said Perlis.
Jenna was exposed to the game early. Julie Ibieta was the coach at UNO for six years and sometimes brought Jenna, who was born during that time. Jenna began playing when she was 6.
“She definitely has a lot to learn,” added Bierria. “But she is so much more advanced than anyone expected.”
Jenna Ibieta acknowledged a need to get better in multiple areas, especially on defense where the team will be without Waguespack.
“I need to use two hands instead of sticking out one arm,” she said. “ They made me run a lot for that.”
Julie Ibieta said she plans to push everyone to improve.
“With Katherine and Victoria gone, those younger players who were significant parts of our championship run have had a year to learn,” she said. “It’s their turn to step up,”
Perlis will provide plenty of experience to the young team as well. She led the team in blocks last year as the starting middle blocker. This year, she will attempt to lead the team in more than just stats.
“Not even the upperclassmen have been in a leadership position before,” Perlis said.
“As a junior, I definitely want to work on my leadership skills.”
As Perlis strives for a larger leadership role, not all role changes will be voluntary.
“We literally have no clue what position we’re going to play,” said Jenna.
No one is aware of that more than Bierria who played at outside hitter and some in the middle last year.
“As a hitter I don’t get to play defense that much, but I might this year as a middle,” she said.
Julie Ibieta is not pressuring her team to win it all again. Instead the players will focus on competing against the bigger schools as they establish new roles and search for new leaders.
“We’re trying to figure out our identity as a team,” Jenna said.
While the Country Day fans watch with anticipation that winning will become a family tradition, Julie Ibieta said she will concentrate on making memories.
“I’ve coached so many kids,” she said. “It’s awesome that I have an opportunity to coach my daughter in such a great environment.”
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