St. Amant sets goals even higher

Peter Silas Pasqua
St. Amant senior Victoria Ogea returns to the Lady Gators after recording 113 kills and 19 blocks to earn all-district last season.

ST. AMANT - St. Amant added two more firsts in volleyball in head coach Allison Didier Leake’s second season,  after garnering the program’s first playoff victory and trip to the state tournament in her inaugural year.

The Lady Gators won a district championship in the sport for the first time in history and also won a game for the first time in thier seven-year history against traditional powerhouse St. Joseph’s Academy in the state tournament.

“Sucess has not been given to us,” Leake said. “The program, the girls and everyone involved in volleyball at St. Amant have definitely worked hard for that success. It is something that just didn’t come to us.”

St. Amant marched through District 4-I competition unscathed with a 10-0 mark and finished the season with a 22-16 record after falling to St. Joseph’s, 3-1, in the regional playoffs but the Lady Gators must replace three seniors that played an integral part including district MVP Hayley Haydel.

“Pretty much everyone in the state knows who we lost,” Leake said. “We loss three pretty good players. We can’t replace them. Our team is alot different. We are more team based than last year. We have more  hitters. We have more passers. We have alot more people that can play different positions. We are relying on alot more of these players to help us through the season. Last year we were really focused on the seniors.”

Haydel, who was the Lady Gators setter, recorded 296 assists, 38 aces and 70 digs in district last season. Alex Dupuis, a first-team selection, who registered 168 kills and 98 blocks and Andrea Ferrari, a second-team selectioin, who dug out 93 shots are also gone.

Leake said the Lady Gators’ sucess has been a goals since she arrived.

“It was the first time in St. Amant’s history that they won district,” Leake said. “Wow, it was huge but it was something they set out as a goal from the beginning. It is a big acomplishment for this area, this school and the girls. We have changed alot in the program over the last two years since I have been here. I told everyone it would take a little while. I didn’t know it would only be two years. To have that team be the first was an incredible feeling.”

And the Lady Gators’ goals have only increased this year after the return of a another strong senior class led by middle blocker Victoria Ojea, who recorded 113 kills and 19 blocks in being named first-team all-district last season.

“She is one of our tallest players,” Leake said. She is one of our go to players obviously. She blocks really well at the net. She has been playing for about two years straight. She has gone to plenty of camps over the summer and she is working really hard. She has her goals and her focus is on volleyball. She is definitely going to be one of the reasons we do well this season but I think that goes for all of our seniors.

“Our senior class is a real strong senior class. When I started they were sophomores. They know what I want and they know what to expect and they know if they do it, they know what they will get out of it.”

Senior Laney Gautreau is moving to setter this year after seeing playing time all-around a year ago.

“I think her knowledge of the game outweighs anybody else’s abilities,” Leake said. “We have to have  her on the court at all times. I told her she would have to focus her tryout on a setting position because that is the only place that I see you being able to play on this volleyball team.”

Senior Megan Poore returns as an outside hitter with junior Kayla Young and Emily Rivet also returning as outside hitters.

“I think that is where we are going to surprise some people because high school teams don’t typically focus on the right side hitter and (Rivet) is a tall girl,” Leake said. “We have really worked with her getting short quick sets.”

Junior Peyton Vincent will step in at libero after playin back row last season.

“She amazes me all the time,” Leake said. “She can do things that you can’t coach. She is quick like the wind. It is incredible when you watch her play on the court.”

Senor Chelcie Daigle will be a defensive specialist on the back row.

“Honestly, I think this probably one of the stongest all around teams we have had at St. Amant,” Leake said. “I say that because every player is a very strong player in what they do and they all have alot of experience. Our strengths are a little bit of everything. What we need to work on more than anything is just being a team.”

Leake said the Lady Gators, who participate in club ball in the spring, took part in 14 camps over the past year tinkering with the lineup.

St. Amant took part in the Assumption Jamboree Thursday and open the season at Mt. Carmel Sept. 2. The Lady Gators will participate in tournaments at Assumption, St. Joseph’s at St. Thomas More, while competing against Cabrini, St. Michael, Mandeville, University, Ascension Catholic, Catholic - New Iberia, Terrebonne and Walker in non-district play. Hahnville, Destrehan, East Ascenion, Dutchtown and East St. John stand in the way of the Lady Gators repeating as district champs.

“Our schedule this season is pretty tough, so we will just see how it works out,” Leake said. “The goals that the girls have set this season is to accomplish what we did last year and of course the next step would be to win that first game at state. I think that would be a big step for St. Amant’s program.”