Young Lady Bulldogs looking to step up in 2021

Kyle Riviere
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Ascension Catholic will return five players with starting experience from a team that reached the state semifinals in 2020.

The Ascension Catholic Lady Bulldogs had one of their best seasons in recent memory last year as they reached the state semifinals.

It was a veteran squad led by many talented seniors. Those seniors are gone now in 2021, and head coach Janelle Leonard will be depending on many young underclassmen to step up and keep the program moving forward.

“We’re young. With only two seniors, inexperience is a factor that will force us to work a little harder at practice,” Leonard said. “For the most part, I have girls that are willing to put in that work. Those that work the hardest and improve are the girls who will see the most playing time.”

Last season, the Lady Bulldogs went 16-10 during the regular season and clinched the district championship.

As the No. 4 seed in the Division-V playoffs, Ascension Catholic swept both West St. John and Central Private to reach the state tournament.

There, they defeated Catholic of Pointe Coupee to reach the state semifinals. That’s where their journey ended against eventual state champion Metairie Park Country Day.

From that team, the Lady Bulldogs lost middle hitters Amelie Husers and Mackenzie Marroy, setter Miranda Landry and libero Madison Tripode.

They’ll bring back four full-time starters in Ella Lemann, Madisyn Cassard, Ketelyn Brooks and Raegan Tripode. Also, Allie Griffin worked herself into the starting lineup at the end of last season.

“Katelyn Brooks will hold her own in the middle,” Leonard said. “As a freshman, she started middle. Last year, she was moved to the right side. I’ll be moving her back to the middle, where I’m expecting big things from her. Raegan Tripode will step into her big sister’s (Madison) role as libero. Raegan reads well on defense and has great ball control. She will do great things in the back row this year.”

Coach Leonard said that she also expects Makayla McKinney to have a big season.

“I have seen tremendous improvement in sophomore setter Karlie Chaney, who played JV last year,” Leonard said. “Junior Emmie Lambert will share the position of setter. She has little experience at setter, and this will be her first experience as a varsity setter, but I’m confident that she’ll step into that role easily. She has proven that this summer, during our summer league.”

Coach Leonard said that Alyse Ourso will step in as middle hitter.

Leonard is looking for her team to grow and grow fast once the season begins.

“I feel that we have potential to be strongest surrounding my setters. If my two setters run the court like they are capable of, we will get better and better,” Leonard said. “The strongest part of our game at this point may be our serving. We have lots of work to do in all aspects of the game.”

Despite the youth, Coach Leonard said that she sees lots of potential with her team this season.

“The challenge this year may be some immaturity and inexperience. The goal is to get them where they need to be to compete, and we have started that process.” Leonard said. “I have an amazing group of freshmen who work extremely hard and who love the game of volleyball. If I can keep them on track mentally, we will see great things from them in the future.”