ST. AMANT — The outcome of a regular-season matchup of the top two 2012 Division I postseason seeds took a back seat to an injury to one of the state’s top players Thursday evening.
Defending champion Mount Carmel controlled St. Amant before and after an injury to St. Amant senior Toni Rodriguez in taking a 25-16, 25-15, 25-15 victory at the Gold Dome.
Rodriguez, a Tennessee commitment and The Advocate’s 2012-13 Baton Rouge-area Girls Athlete of the Year, suffered a left knee injury midway through the match.
Mount Carmel coach April Hagadone said Rodriguez’s injury also was on the minds of her players.
“You just think she’s a team captain, a leader over there, they rely on her so much,” Hagadone said. “It’s heartbreaking for the other team, as well. A lot of the girls know her from the club season. It’s a friendly rivalry.
“It was heartbreaking. We almost cried on the sideline just from watching her go down. I definitely think the whole mindset of the match changed once it happened.”
Katie Kampen led Mount Carmel with 14 kills and six blocks. Other leaders for the Cubs included Jillian Clark (19 assists), Megan Davenport (six blocks) and Jordan Owens and Kristen Nuss (20 digs each).
Even with Rodriguez on the court for St. Amant, Mount Carmel (3-0) controlled the match almost from the start. The Cubs spotted the Gators (1-1) the first two points, then reeled off eight in a row.
St. Amant closed to 14-11, but two unforced errors stopped the Gators’ response. Mount Carmel eventually posted six consecutive points to effectively put the first set away.
In the second set, the Cubs notched four points in a row to take control, but the Gators closed to 11-8. Then Rodriguez went down and Mount Carmel scored 10 of the next 11 points to seal it.
The scrappy Gators led Mount Carmel 8-7 in the third set, before Mount Carmel scored the next seven points to seal the set and the match.
Hagadone based Mount Carmel’s overall performance off the first set.
“We came out strong in an opposing team’s gym, a good team, a top-four contender,” Hagadone said. “We played very well throughout the match. We had very good defense. We were sound, very scrappy, and I’m proud of the way my team played.”
Rodriguez appeared to fall after an attempt to return a Mount Carmel shot midway through the second set. She was carried off the court and did not return.
St. Amant coach Allison Leake said Rodriguez would undergo an MRI on Friday. Rodriguez previously suffered a right knee injury while playing basketball during the 2012-13 season.
“Obviously, no team practices for this,” Leake said. “As much as I want the girls to think about the game and think about the ball itself, every player and every coach knows that’s not the case.
“I might be biased, but I think we just saw the best player in the state go down.”