Servin’ up a win
One of the things Central Catholic practiced during its time off last week because of a first-round bye was serving.
During Monday night’s second-round Division 5 playoff game against No. 13 seed Northside Christian as the Lady Eagles recorded 16 aces and missed only five serves — four of those in game 3 — as the squad posted a 25-10, 25-8, 25-18 win and advanced to the state volleyball tournament in Kenner Thursday where the squad will face No. 5 seed Academy of Sacred Heart-Grand Coteau Thursday at 10:50 a.m.
Even when the Lady Eagles weren’t connecting on aces in Monday’s contest, Kaitlyn Gros was torching shots over the net at Northside Christian.
Gros finished the contest with three aces and 31 assists.
“We’ve been doing a great deal of serving because that’s going to be a key,” Central Catholic coach Latashia Wise said. “That’s going to be big down the stretch …. And I think our servers did a good job tonight.”
While the Lady Eagles served well, Wise said they can’t falter like they did a little in game 3.
“Not saying Northside Christian’s not a good team, but when we go in a stretch where we get the quarters and hopefully to the semis, you can’t miss that many serves because you (let) the other capitalize on your errors,” she said.
Northside Christian coach Tracie Clement said her squad is a “fairly young” team with just two seniors and two juniors.
“I knew coming into the game that we had our work cut out for us,” she said. “Our weakness all season long has been receiving a serve and we struggled with it (Monday) again, so hopefully for the future we can fix that and be successful next year.”
When the Lady Eagles weren’t scoring at the serving line, their big duo of Meo Knight and Gee Garrett were getting it done on the front row.
Knight finished the contest with 19 kills (out of 30 attempts), while Garrett connected on 12 of 19 attempts for kills. The duo combined for just five attack errors. Knight also had two blocks, while Garrett had a solo block.
Ahead 9-7 in game 1, Central Catholic took control with a 16-3 run during the remainder of Game 1, using several kills by Knight, Northside errors and several aces by the Lady Eagles to propel them.
In game 2, the Lady Eagles put on a serving clinic as the squad connected on seven aces, including four by Brittany Longman who kept serve for the Lady Eagles throughout a sizable chunk of the contest. The Lady Eagles had 1 serving error in the set to take game 2.
Longman finished the contest with six aces, while teammate Megan Landry finished Monday’s match with four kills.
In game 3, the contest was much closer as the Lady Eagles committed several errors, while Northside Christian made several plays, including a few blocks on Knight.
However, the Lady Eagles withstood Northside Christian and came away with the win, closing the contest on a Northside hitting error.
“When we transitioned for the third set I told the girls … ‘OK, we saw what they got. I want you to come over here. I don’t want you to worry about anything else. I want you to go out there and have fun. I said you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t worry about it. Just get out there and fight and they really did,’” Clement said. “They came out and they fought on the third set. I wish we’d have fought all three sets like that, and I think it could have turned things around.”
Wise said her team has becomes complacent at times, like in that third game.
“We take this jump on out of the gate and then we kind of sit back a little bit and we watch and see what’s going to happen … we can’t do that in the stretch,” she said. “When you get a team down, we got to keep them down.”
In Monday’s win, Central Catholic also got solid play from its defense during the contest, which was diving around for balls during the contest.
Olivia Crawford recorded 14 digs, while Elizabeth Garber had 10 digs.
“We’re a little scrappy team,” Wise said. “We usually do a good job at making attempts to dig the ball. I think Elizabeth Garber, she did a good job tonight. She made some emergency plays for us and so did our libero (Olivia Crawford).”
Now that a trip to the Pontchartrain Center has been secured, Wise — Lady Eagles’ first-year coach — said her initial message to the Lady Eagles, who have fallen in the past three semifinals, was to finish.
“We got to finish,” she said. “We got to finish. I’ve been talking a lot about our team redefining itself. …. Redefine yourself and finish. Don’t just settle for the semifinals. Finish it.”