Ascension braces for start of the volleyball season

Kyle Riviere
East Ascension returning all-district junior Diamond Jones. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

It seems like every year that Ascension Parish produces some of the best volleyball teams in the state—teams that often make noise come playoff time, teams that often compete for district and state championships.

Although many of the parish’s top volleyball stars of the past will be gone in 2017, it appears that Ascension is in for another successful season.

Last year, five of the six parish high-schools made the postseason. One of those schools was Ascension Christian.

The Lady Lions continue to prove that their volleyball program is on the rise.

Last season, they were tremendous as they went 14-9 during the regular season and clinched a district championship.

The Lady Lions hosted a first-round game against White Castle and escaped with a tough five-set victory, before losing to defending Division V champion McGehee in regionals.

Ascension Christian did lose Emily Millet from that team. Millet was the Co-MVP of the district. Along with Millet, they also lost all-district star Lani Sanchez.

Fortunately, the Lady Lions will bring back a talented trio that should ensure them being serious district contenders.

They will be led by Jamilyn Robinson—who was a first-team all-district selection last season. She will be joined by both Kylie Jones and Rhesa Jones. Both players were second-team all-district in 2016.

Also in Division V, Ascension Catholic looks to be contenders.

After losing many of their top players in 2016, the Lady Bulldogs struggled early on, especially with a brutal non-district schedule.

Though, they put things together late, earning a spot in the playoffs and pulling off an upset over Academy of Sacred Heart - G.C. in the opening round.

This season, Ascension Catholic has a new head coach in Alaina Poirrier, a former Bulldog player.

She’ll be without Grace Villa and last year’s district MVP Carson Dunn, but fortunately for Poirrier, she’ll have two experienced seniors to lead the charge.

Hannah Settoon and Bailey Acosta both return as all-district standouts. Junior Lauren Landry was also all-district.

Dutchtown had a solid 2016 as they finished as district runner-up, earned the No. 13 seed in the playoffs and reached the regional round.

This season, the Lady Griffins will be without a former district MVP and Tulane signee in Kristen Thompson, as well as all-district stars in Whitney Jones, Katelyn Lund, Bailey Mohler and Caroline Beeman.

This mass exodus will force Dutchtown to rely heavily on their only returning all-district star, Lauren Launey. She was a second-team selection last season.

Other players head coach Patrick Ricks is expecting to step up are Jaela Drumgole, Madison Lee, Kathleen Vasterling and Zoe Wooten.

East Ascension was in Dutchtown’s position last year. They were forced to rebuild after losing a multitude of accomplished starters.

Many young but hungry players took their place and exceeded all expectations.

The Lady Spartans caught fire at the end of the season. This led to them pulling off a first-round upset over Barbe in the playoffs.

As just a sophomore, Diamond Jones stepped up and became a first-team all-district player for East Ascension as she came up with 316 kills and 39 aces.

Jones will be back in 2017, along with fellow all-district stars in Meagan Ross and Abby LeBourgeois.

St. Amant is usually the clear favorite heading into the season, but things will be a little different in 2016.

The Lady Gators are coming off of another fantastic year that saw them bring home a district title and reach the Volleyball State Tournament in Kenner, but they have lost most of their firepower from that team.

All-district stars in Maggie Duplechein and Madison Anderson graduated, along with district Defensive MVP Brianne Babin. Also, just recently, last year’s district MVP Taylor Tidwell quit the team. She accounted for 417 kills, 380 assists and 64 blocks in 2016.

But the cupboard isn’t completely bare. They will return three all-district players in Baylee Rambin, Megan Arceneaux and Lauren Lambert.

Head coach Allison Leake said that some first-year starters that could make a big impact are senior Taylor Baxter, junior Megan Benoit and freshman Gracie Duplechein.

She said that the team has been working to improve their defense over the offseason, but she still believes her squad’s greatest strength is the strong bonds within the team.

“Our team chemistry will help us to win games this year,” Leake said. “These girls are very close on and off of the court. They love each other like sisters, which is key in winning those big games where the teams are evenly skilled. It will be a fun season to see what we can accomplish. The girls have been intensely working to improve their skills in the offseason, so they are hungry to bring another successful year to our program, school and St. Amant community.”