Lady Blue Gators sweep St. John in state tourney

St. John senior volleyball players Annette Stassi, Jessie Brown, Kamryn Theriot, Jayme Rivet and Randi Seneca and coach Chase Mancuso advanced to the LHSAA State Tournament for the second consecutive season before falling to Ascension Episcopal on Thursday. 

KENNER - Ascension Episcopal swept St. John of Plaquemine 25-12, 25-12, 25-12 in the quarterfinals of the Division V volleyball playoffs at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday at the Pontchartrain Center on Court 3.

It marked the second straight year the No. 4 seed Lady Eagles (38-6) were knocked out of the third round by a team from District 1-V after St. John fell to traditional power Episcopal of Acadiana 25-7, 25-9, 25-11 last season.

"We wanted to win but we also understand that getting here is tough and it is even tougher here because everybody in this tournament is good," St. John coach Chase Mancuso said. "We didn't expect to just walk in and win because nobody does. It is disappointing but we also had a good journey and that was just as important.

"We are going to miss our seniors but I think they have set the standard and we are at a point where we expect to be here every year. It has been a real emotional year for them but I couldn't have been any prouder of them. For us to get to the stage where we are now is a credit to them and I think we have totally changed the outlook of the program."

St. John's five seniors, Jessie Brown, Kamryn Theriot, Randi Seneca, Jayme Rivet and Annette Stassi, were a part of District 3-V championships and teams that set a school record in wins in each of the past two seasons, advancing to the postseason in each of their four years with the program.

"We lose a lot but we are going to bring back a good group," Mancuso said. "Their experience and ability to be around the ball is something that we are going to have to find but I don't expect much of a downfall because a winning attitude has been set."

The fifth-seeded Lady Blue Gators advanced to the semifinals for the first time in three attempts but ultimately fell to district rival and No. 1 seed Episcopal of Acadiana 25-20, 25-13, 25-20 on Friday to finish 29-9 overall.

The Lady Falcons, seeking their first title since 2006 and 18th overall, fell to defending state champion and second-seeded Metairie Park Country Day 26-24, 19-25, 25-19, 25-22 in the final on Saturday.

Shanelle Charlot led Ascension Episcopal with 13 kills and three blocks against St. John, while Danni Duck added five kills and three aces.

"We had a tough time defending their middle blocker," Mancuso said. "It wasn't like we weren't in the right position. She just hit the ball away from our defenders and put it away.

"They have a pretty good team and their front line was talented. Their libero was quick and all over the court. Several times, we thought for sure we had a kill and she came diving across to keep the play alive. My girls fought but I'd have to say they earned the game."

Brown had six kills and three digs for St. John. Keri Yarbrough added three kills and one dig, Emily Delahaye had two kills and two blocks and Theriot had one kill, seven digs and one ace.

Rivet had three aces and two digs, Seneca had seven assists and Carlee Smith had three digs.

"We started off well in each of the games but we weren't able to stop their runs," Mancuso said. "We were never able to step up and put the ball away and defensively, they did an outstanding job keeping us out of rhythm.

"I felt going in we were confident and ready to play but we just couldn't make plays when they started a run. We had to try to hit the line and the cross court when they gave it to us. It cost us sometimes doing that but we had to try and stretch them out because they were there on everything we hit short or up the middle. They just did a good job of taking everything away from us and forced us to take some chances."