University falls in semifinals to Notre Dame

KENNER — The drought continues.

University High was dispatched from the LHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in three sets Friday morning by two-time defending-champion Notre Dame, ensuring that no Baton Rouge-area teams will be playing for a title for the third straight season.

For that matter, except for the three consecutive state crowns won by St. Joseph’s Academy from 2007-09, no other area team has played on the big court in the finals since 2007 when St. Michael and U-High lost their respective title matches.

Acadiana fared much better, none better than St. Martinville, which is in a final for the first time in 25 years after beating District 2 rival Breaux Bridge in four sets. St. Martinville (32-11) will play St. Thomas More (32-10) at 5 p.m. Saturday. STM won their three meetings this year, twice in district play.

“We lost in the semifinals last year, and the goal has always been to surpass the state semifinals and surpassing 32 wins,” St. Martinville coach Lucinda Mason said. “We accomplished our 32 wins today and made it to the finals.”

Episcopal School of Acadiana will play Metairie Park Country Day in the Division V final at 11 a.m. after beating Lafayette rival Ascension Episcopal in three sets. It will be ESA’s seventh consecutive trip to the title match, which it last won in 2006 and lost the past three years to Country Day.

“It’s such a great feeling,” third-year ESA coach Julie Dawson said. “My girls are just champing at the bit to get another chance at Country Day. What other chance in life do you get to fix something for the fourth time in a row? Never in the game of life. So here we are, sitting here ready to get it right.”

U-High (35-7)was no match for Notre Dame (34-10) in the Division IV semifinals. The Crowley team rolled to a 25-18, 25-16, 25-10 victory.

“It’s always good to get here, they worked hard, obviously, and they got after it but couldn’t put it together,” said veteran coach Bonita Johnson, who was trying to get the Cubs back to the Division IV title match for the first time since 2007, when it lost to Newman.

“The name of this game is who is playing well that day. And today was not our day.”

Setter/right side Lindsay Flory, one of U-High’s many young players, led the Cubs with 12 kills. Presley Stoltzfus had 12 digs. The team loses just two seniors, Lauren Halliburton and March Boutvonnoan.

“The young girls are doing well, they’re fighting for positions, and it’s tough at every position,” Johnson said with an eye on the future. “They’re ready for it, and they’re hungry for it.”

Notre Dame, which will play Newman at 1 p.m. Saturday, got 14 kills from Lindsey Meyer and 28 digs from Taylor Boulet. Newman (31-7) advanced by beating Riverside Academy 19-25, 25-18, 25-22, 25-23. St. Martinville beat Breaux Bridge 22-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-11.

Mason, a 1986 St. Martinville graduate was overcome with emotion at the idea of finally playing for it all. She played at Southern University and then went back to St. Martinville, first teaching in middle school before returning to the high school.

Mason served as an assistant for nine years to her old head coach, Dorothy Polk, before taking over six years ago.

“I’m so excited,” St. Martinville’s Chanelle Gardner said after leading her team with 16 kills and three blocks.

Breaux Bridge’s season ended at 32-9. Taylor Alexander led with 14 kills, four blocks and four aces.

“To be able to play our rivals from the same district, it’s a great feeling,” said Gardner, who is a University of Louisiana-Lafayette commitment. She started playing volleyball in the sixth grade, “and mind you, I was horrible.”

She started playing club volleyball for Cajun Elite, Breaux Bridge coach Laurie Simon’s club.

“We all know each other,” Gardner said. “Most of the girls on Breaux Bridge are like my family. It was really nice to be able to play them.”

Allana Allen had eight aces and Kelsey Cormier 21 digs.

“They’ve been wonderful to coach. I’ve had them since the fifth grade,” Mason said. “It’s been a joy having them.”

St. Thomas More beat Cabrini, the team it lost to in last year’s title match, 25-17, 25-20, 25-21. Jamie Landry (11 kills), Kayla McCollum (eight blocks) and Emma McKay (21 assists, 10 digs) led STM.

“I thought we played better than we ever have,” McKay said. “It’s nice to see us come out and play that way. We played really poorly (Thursday in beating Belle Chasse in five sets),” STM coach Jessica Burke said.

Her team did not lose a set in its three matches with St. Martinville and Burke’s not concerned about a fourth matchup.

“We’re going to have to be prepared and have to play well,” said Burke, whose team won it all in 2010, “but I’m excited about the chance to beat them on a bigger stage.”

“We’ve won every time we’ve played them,” McKay said, “so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. We have to stay confident but not cocky.”

ESA (38-5) won 25-20, 25-13, 25-20 behind 16 kills from Elasha Williams and 13 by Carla Dibbs.

Setter Adela Munson had 34 assists. Munson is well aware of ESA’s tradition, having won 16 consecutive titles from 1986-2002. Her two older sisters played on those championship teams.

“I am beyond ready to win, and I think tomorrow we can do it,” Munson said.

Junior Sherelle Charlot led AE with nine kills and three blocks.