LAFAYETTE – The task ahead of them was formidable.
Almost too much to face.
The No. 16 seeded Live Oak Eagles brought a 23-13 record into Saturday's second round of play in the LHSAA Division II state regional volleyball playoff.
Across the net stood the Teurlings Catholic Rebels, whose gymnasium walls are cluttered with pictures of state championship teams from 2014, 2015 and 2016 in Division III as well as last year’s Division II title.
Good morning, Mr. Phelps. Your mission, should you decide to accept it …
“I told them that we were playing Bama, too,” said second-year Eagles coach Chastity Sims, alluding to Saturday's epic football matchup between LSU and Alabama. “So, we were going to give it all we've got.”
Their best wasn’t enough, but they improved with each set in a 25-7, 25-10, 25-23 TCHS’ victory.
Teurlings’ foes tend to be intimidated by the Rebels (43-5), but the visitors got better as they match wore on.
“We were calm,” said Olivia Betz. “We knew what to expect. We knew they were good. We needed to have a faster start. Stick with it, play with more energy, more heart, and communicate better.”
“We needed a quicker start,” Sims agreed. “We got going after the first set. Our girls are all headstrong, and they had to play their game. I don’t think we were nervous. They were relaxed all week, and I kind of like that vibe.”
Nervous or not, there was a palpable sigh of relief when the Eagles scored their first point courtesy of Camryn Gerage, getting within 6-1 in the early going.
There were other moments – including a nice reach by Sophia Foster – but too few.
Live Oak started finding its rhythm in the second game. Gerage scored at the net and Gabby Gaines had a block to draw them to within 8-7, but Teurlings won the next eight points to gain control, 16-7. Nice touch from Foster and a TCHS error made it 16-9.
But, once again, the Rebels made enough key plays.
Many teams have folded their tent trailing Teurlings 2-0 in a match, many are thrilled with a double-digit game in defeat.
But the Eagles elected to go out in style.
Trailing 8-3 in the third, the visitors went on an 11-3 streak to grab a 14-11 edge. Highlights included a service ace from Betz, a block by Foster and Foster’s soft touch point.
The two foes traded salvos then, with a pair of acrobatic kills by Betz giving Live Oak its final lead at 16-15. Teurlings couldn’t seem to put the Eagles away.
But coach Terry Hebert’s squad remembered that champions close out a team when they need it.
Still, they endured a winning serve by Jaime Elenbaas and a final salvo by Foster before closing the door.
“This was our last game and the seniors wanted to fight all the way,” Betz said. “We had our ups and downs, but it was a great season.”
“I told them I’m very proud of every point we scored,” Sims said. “This program has done good things. We just need to keep building.”