Lady Gators fall to New Iberia in Division I bi-district playoff
NEW IBERIA - St. Amant forced a fifth deciding game against New Iberia Senior High but ultimately fell 30-32, 25-23, 18-25, 25-23, 15-9 in a Division I bi-district playoff game at NISH’s gym Monday night.
“We made a lot of mistakes that you typically don’t make at the end of the season,” St. Amant head coach Allison Didier Leake said. “I felt at times that we were so scared to lose that we didn’t play to win. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to win or tried to win, it was just at times both teams kind of played scared. That is what both teams had a problem with.”
No. 14 seed New Iberia (24-6) advanced to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s State Volleyball Tournament at the Ponchartrain Center in Kenner to face perennial power No. 3 seeded St. Joseph Academy (36-3) Wednesday night.
"We have no pressure," New Iberia head coach Ron Hebert said. "If they win they should have. If they lose shame on them."
19th seeded St. Amant finishes the season with a record of 17-21 after earning Division 4-I runner-up with a 8-2 mark.
“Just because we didn’t make it to the state tournament doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful season,” Leake said. “For us to be able to compete with some of the best teams in the state is incredible. Our schedule this season was not easy by any means. When you look at who plays in the finals Saturday, a majority of those teams we played this season. I wanted to prepare us for our district and the playoffs and I think it definitely helped us.”
St. Amant led by as many as seven points in the first game before New Iberia rallied. The Lady Gators forced it to 30 points before NISH eked out the win.
“At some point in matches that you play, it is not necessarily who is the better team that is going to win,” Leake said. “Sometimes it is just which way fate leads and in that first game, we just weren’t meant to win. It was a big let down when we loss. There was some things we could have done to win that game and things we could have done to win the match but we just weren’t able to execute them.
“It was definitely a haul for us to travel and play on the road. All season, we played a lot of five game matches but very few of them did we come out with a win. It concerned me going in. When it gets to five games for some reason, we choke.”
New Iberia led 20-13 in the fourth game before St. Amant rallied to win 25-23 to force the deciding game.
“We had fought to come back so much and still be in the match,” Leake said. “In the fifth game we were point for point until we had a few bad calls by the officials and I think that kind of busted our bubble.”
The game was tied at 7-7 in the final set when a couple of close calls swung the momentum to the Lady Jackets. An out call by a linesman and a tipped call by a linesman that landed out both went NISH’s way and were upheld by the match official.
“I don’t think either one of those linesmen would be making things up,” Hebert said. “They were calling like they saw it. We don’t necessarily agree with what they called but it can go both ways. We haven’t gone five game a lot this year but we have given up a lot of points this year. We win just enough to get by.”
After advancing to the state tournament for the past two consecutive seasons and winning a district championship for the first time last season, Leake did admit loss time due to hurricane aftermath did affect the Lady Gators.
“I know my girls worked really, really hard this past summer to get prepared and I really felt comfortable where we were going into the season but when you have two weeks off, it is going to hurt you,” Leake said. “Everything we did went out the window. That was the effect on many teams across the state. It hurt us but it hurt a lot of other teams as well.”
St. Amant will lose four key seniors next season in middle blocker Victoria Ojea, setter Laney Gautreau, outside hitter Megan Poore and defensive specialist Chelsea Daigle.
“Every year our seniors are always a vital part of our program,” Leake said. “This is two years in a row that I loss my setter. Laney worked really hard in that position and I know how important that position is. Victoria has been our middle for the past three years so that is big shoes that will have to be filled. Megan and Chelsie were extremely good passers. We are losing a lot of experience.”
Key players that will return for St. Amant include junior libero Peyton Vincent, junior outside hitter Kayla Young, sophomore outside hitter Elena Villar and sophomore middle blocker Vivian Butler.
“We have half of our starting lineup that we have to build for,” Leake said. “I am excited about the girls coming back. They need experience and time but will be pretty good.”