KENNER -- For the second straight year, the Division III state volleyball championship trophy is returning to Vandebilt Catholic.
History repeated itself for the No. 1-seeded Lady Terriers on Saturday as they defeated their longtime rival No. 3 E.D. White Catholic 25-19, 25-27, 25-12, 25-19 in the Division III state championship match at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner.
It was the second state title in school history for Vandebilt, which finished the season at 38-9 overall.
Vandebilt coach Greg Castillo, who has now on five state championships as a coach (three at Cabrini, two at Vandebilt), said many people thought the Lady Terriers would fall off after losing six key senior players from last year’s championship team. Vandebilt had only two seniors on the roster (Annelise Henry and Bailey Theriot) this season.
So Castillo said that inspired the Lady Terriers to go by their motto, “prove them wrong.”
“They don’t think you’re going to be any good,” Castillo said in recalling what he told his team before the season. “We’re very young with one returning player. I said, ‘Guys you can be good if you work hard.’ It’s very nice to win it again.”
E.D. White (28-12 overall) fell short of winning its first state title since 2008 and second overall. It was the Lady Cardinals’ first appearance in the state finals since 2013.
“We were in the match but they were able to pull away,” E.D. White coach Sarah Johnson said. “We fought hard at the end. It’s always a tough loss, but I’m so proud of these girls. The whole year was phenomenal. It’s great to be here.”
Vandebilt junior Brittany Theriot, who finished with 21 kills and was named the D-III Most Outstanding Player, said the Lady Terriers were determined to repeat as state champs.
“It feels great. We did it last year. We knew we could do it again this year,” Theriot said. “Everyone doubted us saying that we lost the whole team, but we wanted to prove them wrong, and I think we did just that.”
Other leaders for Vandebilt in the state championship match were junior setter Angelle Buquet (45 assists), sophomore Lauren Fitch (six blocks), sophomore Madeline Benoit (two aces) and Henry (six digs).
Although many of the young Vandebilt players didn’t get to compete in last year’s state finals match, Castillo said watching it from the sidelines gave them some valuable experience.
“They’ve seen it in this atmosphere,” Castillo said. “They’ve seen what it takes to win the state championship. All of that goes into it.”
Both Vandebilt and E.D. White traded blows throughout the first set, but the Lady Terriers pulled out in front to win it 25-19 due to several errors by the Lady Cardinals.
Castillo said the District 8-III rivals were very familiar with each other. Vandebilt eliminated E.D. White in the Division III state quarters last year, but they split their two regular season district meetings this season with each team recording sweeps on their home floors.
“We played each other in district. Some of these girls play together during the offseason,” Castillo said. “We all know each other, so it came down to who wants it the most and who is going to be consistent. We made a few errors here and there, but we made up for those errors.”
The Lady Cardinals bounced back in a competitive second set. The score was tied five times in the late stages before E.D. White took advantage of several service errors from the Lady Terriers to pull away 27-25.
E.D. White had the momentum briefly as Vandebilt seized the momentum in both the third and fourth sets.
At the end of the fourth set, Vandebilt sealed the win with a block by Benoit, which sent the Lady Terriers storming the court in celebration with their fans cheering loudly from the stands.
After losing the second set, Castillo said the Lady Terriers needed to respond.
“We had a lot of serving errors,” Castillo said. “I told them that’s not us. This is the state finals. We shouldn’t be making these silly errors. I said ‘ya’ll know that you need to do.’ It’s just making them feel confident in knowing that they can do it.”
Johnson said the Lady Cardinals nerves got the best of them late and they struggled with their serve-receive game.
“They (Vandebilt) are a smart team. They knew the things that they needed to do to beat us,” Johnson said. “They were here last year, so it was kind of a comfortable place for them. This was our first time in a while that we’ve been in this spot, so I think we were extremely nervous, especially in that first game, but we were able to fight back. They responded. They were tough, but I thought we fought just as hard. Just came up a bit short.”
Leaders for E.D. White in the state finals were Bordis (26 kills, 14 digs), Joci Gravois (nine kills), Khloe Trosclair (five blocks), Hannah Terrebonne (three blocks), Mary Grace Chiasson (35 assists) and Kadie Becnel (17 digs).
Chiasson, a senior, said the Lady Cardinals gave a valiant effort but couldn’t overcome nerves at key times during the match.
“Vandebilt was ready. They wouldn’t let anything hit the ground,” Chiasson said. “They picked up almost everything. They played really well. I’m still proud of us. We fought hard. We tried our best. They just pulled through a little more. I think mentally we just got down. Normally we would pick ourselves up and fight back, but I guess our nerves were just too much.”