After two years of dominating the state's Division III volleyball ranks, Vandebilt Catholic is gearing up for a new challenge. 

The Lady Terriers have moved up to Division II this season. It comes after they won the last two Division III state championship titles. 

So are the Lady Terriers worried about a move up to a more competitive Division II? 

If you ask Vandebilt coach Greg Castillo, he isn’t worried about it. 

“You’re going to face some tough teams and all, but we just have to play your game,” said Castillo, who has led the Lady Terriers to their only two state titles in school history. “If we play our game and worry about our side of the net, we’ll be fine. Yes the competition will be tougher, but we’re preparing for that. We’re working for that and hopefully when we see it, we’ll be prepared for it.” 

One of the ways Vandebilt is preparing for the Division II state playoffs is by playing against a very tough schedule. 

Castillo loaded up their nondistrict slate by facing many teams that traditionally compete for state titles in the Pontchartrain Center every year. 

Coming up on the Lady Terriers schedule is a home game against Mount Carmel today, at Cabrini on Sept. 17, home against Pope John Paul II on Sept. 19, at Ascension Episcopal on Sept. 23, home against Country Day on Sept. 26 and a nondistrict road contest against archrival E.D. White on Sept. 30. Vandebilt defeated the Lady Cardinals in the Division III finals last year. 

Vandebilt will also play in District 6-II against Assumption, South Terrebonne, South Lafourche and Ellender. Assumption, South Terrebonne and South Lafourche have all made it to the Pontchartrain Center in recent years. 

Castillo, who has won five state championships as a coach (three at Cabrini, two at Vandebilt), said the Lady Terriers welcome a tough challenge every night. 

“We have plenty of hard ones throughout the whole season,” Castillo said. “It will make us better and get us prepared for the state tournament. Being state champions two years in a row, everybody is going to be after you, so we have to be focused and ready to play each contest.” 

The Lady Terriers said they are excited for the chance to prove themselves in a new division. 

“It’s tougher division. We just need to work a lot harder,” junior hitter Madeline Benoit said. “It’s different competition too. It’s not like we’re playing the same teams anymore. We switched districts, so it will be fun to play some new teams.” 

So far Vandebilt has handled its tough schedule with ease. They have a 6-0 record going into the showdown against Mount Carmel in Houma. 

The Lady Terriers opened the season with a win over Central Catholic on Sept. 4 and they captured the Episcopal of Baton Rouge tournament title on Saturday. They defeated state power St. Joseph’s Academy in the tournament finals 21-25, 25-22, 15-10. 

Vandebilt senior hitter Brittany Theriot, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the Division III state finals last year, said the Lady Terriers love playing against top volleyball programs. 

“(Castillo) tells us all the time that he’s not going to schedule us an easy win,” Theriot said. “He’s going to make us work for it. We come into the gym and we do just that. Every practice we work to get better. If we keep playing teams that are below us, we’re never going to get better ourselves.” 

Vandebilt senior setter Angelle Buquet said the difficult schedule will help out in the long run. 

“It’s good for us to have tough competition at the beginning of the season because we switched divisions,” Buquet said. “It’s going to be a lot tougher for us than in the last few years. We have to work a lot harder. It’s going to take a lot of preparation and just working harder at practice.” 

The Lady Terriers also know being a two-time defending state champion comes with a reputation. 

“People are just going to want to beat us more being that we are two-time state champions,” Theriot said. “We just have to prove ourselves that we have to hold our title.” 

“A lot of people are coming after us this season because we won state last year,” Benoit added. “We need to be focused all the way through just like last season.” 

Castillo said he will have a strong senior class leading this year’s team. The six seniors are Theriot, Buquet, defensive specialist Grace Fondren, middle blocker Katie Haydel, libero Tiffany Boudreaux and setter Anne-Morgan Simmons. 

“They were eighth graders my first year here. I’ve seen them grow,” Castillo said. “The nice thing is they know how I coach and my philosophy to share that with the younger players. It was at senior mass — this was like a week or so after school started — that it hit me that they are seniors this year. This is my last year with them, so I’m hoping we can go out with a bang and have a special season with them.” 

After winning two state titles in a row, Theriot said the Lady Terriers are hungry for another this season. 

“We feel if we do what we have to do, we could handle that,” Theriot said. “We can go far and make it. It would be a memorable season. We know what we have to do. We have to just turn it up.”