St. Joseph’s senior volleyball players embracing pressure to repeat

Advocate Photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- St. Joseph's Sydney Davis goes up for a kill against Mount Carmel's Jordan Owens and Marissa Lagasse at the LHSAA state volleyball tournament last season.
Advocate Photo by VERONICA DOMINACH -- St. Joseph's Sydney Davis goes up for a kill against Mount Carmel's Jordan Owens and Marissa Lagasse at the LHSAA state volleyball tournament last season.

Joining the St. Joseph’s Academy volleyball program can be intimidating. There’s pressure involved.

Instead of shying away from it, a seven-player senior class hopes to apply some pressure this fall.

“It’s always nerve-racking to come into a team known for being good at volleyball,” Sydney Davis said. “You want to be able to maintain that reputation.”

Three years have passed since Davis, Madison Daigle, Sydney Davis, Katherine Young and Hanna Rovira entered SJA as nervous freshmen. After helping the Redstickers win their first Division I state title since 2009 last fall the seniors could feel added pressure.

Instead, the SJA seniors are taking a methodical approach that includes preseason conditioning this week.

“Every game, every set, we want to win,” SJA coach Sivi Miller said. “We take it one game at a time but have our big goal in mind. There are all these little mini-goals to capture the big goal.”

Those small goals can add up like they did last year when St. Joseph’s finished 45-1, including an 11-0 record in Division I, District 5. The Redstickers defeated Mount Carmel Academy 3-2 to win the Division I title at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association state volleyball tournament.

Daigle and Rovira garnered all-metro honors last season. Daigle tallied 220 kills and 183 blocks, and Rovira recorded 384 kills and a .391 hitting percentage while earning Division I, District 5 Offensive MVP honors. Davis and Young also played key roles.

The seniors group that also includes Melissa Currier, Ashley Twigg and Kelly McDuff knows there are no guarantees for a repeat.

“As state champions, we kind of have a target on our back,” Davis said. “But we don’t want to win one and be done. There’s always room to improve.”

All four seniors said they want to leave a legacy. They’re working with younger players who will be the future standard bearers.

“(SJA’s Miller) counts on us a lot for leadership and running drills, but everyone on the team is accountable for their own actions,” Young said. “My coach always says ‘Be a steward for your own success,’ and teaches us to use your time wisely to get better.”

By teaching those ideals, Miller expects every player to improve, leaving no gap in leadership in May when another senior class graduates.

“Everyone from our coaches to our statisticians to our players, no matter what grade they’re in, has to make sure they’re doing what they’re doing to the best of their ability to push the person next to them,” Miller said. “If we’re all worried about getting everyone else better and pushing them, it’ll make us better. To me, if you’re going to be a really good team you can’t have one great player. You have to have a bunch of good players.”

The Redstickers have 37 players for the 2014 season, including the seven seniors. Miller said this team is fun group that has grown together.

“We work out all summer together,” Rovira noted. “We spend a lot of time together during the season at sleepovers and team dinners. I spend five of the seven days of the week with them. We all like to work as one unit.”

“A lot of people watch our players play, and they play hard,” Miller said. “They play tough. They are just fun loving, close-knit, average girls, but yet train really hard all year to be the athlete they see on the court.”