DENHAM SPRINGS – Sophomore setter Mallory Landry of Denham Springs had always heard of St. Joseph Academy’s powerhouse volleyball program.
Now that the two teams are in the same district the Yellow Jackets found out that the Redstickers’ reputation was well founded.
Denham Springs maintained solid levels of play in the first two sets, forcing St. Joseph’s to dig deep for wins in both, before the visitors caught fire in the third to sweep the Yellow Jackets 25-18, 25-16, 25-14 on Tuesday at Grady Hornsby Gymnasium.
“It was definitely intimidating to start with, we knew about them and had heard about them,” said Landry, who had eight assists. “We were nervous to play them, but I felt like we kept up with them, picked up the pace and held our own against them.”
Denham Springs (9-15, 0-4 in district) proved to be very competitive in both of the first two sets, relying on the setting of Landry to Arlivia Ross (7 kills overall), Kailey Dunham (7 kills) and Kate Beatty (3 kills, 2 aces) in the opening set.
St. Joseph’s Academy (15-12, 4-0) opened some distance after holding serve for five points, a span where Denham Springs committed a pair of hitting errors and delivered a pair of returns wide of play.
The Lady Jackets faced a 19-9 deficit when they began chipping away at the lead.
Catherine Beasley served three points that included an ace and kill from Ross and with Dunham serving, they got as close as 24-18 when Beasley fed Beatty for a kill and SJA was wide on a return.
“I think our defense came to play,” Denham Springs coach Pam Dubuy said. “We worked on that a lot in practice because we knew they were going to come in being aggressive and hitting hard. We also worked a lot on serve-receive and defense and I think it helped. They brought it into the game which I think really showed.”
The two teams were tied at 3-all in the second set when it appeared SJA was off and running to a comfortable victory. They repelled one run when Denham Springs got within 10-7 on a long return, and regained control with a 9-2 run that made it 20-9 after three consecutive kills.
An ace from Beatty started a slow climb where she wound up holding serve for five points, highlighted by Landry’s assist to Dunham for a cross-court kill, leading the Lady Jackets facing a 20-15 deficit.
The Redstickers closed with a 5-1 spurt, and then opened the third set on a 4-0 run and never looked back. They continued to take advantage of its “quick” sets, continually making it difficult for Denham Springs’ defense to react in a timely fashion.
“I thought like we played well,” Dubuy said. “Unfortunately, a loss is a loss and that’s not the outcome we want. They definitely showed heart and played much better than we’ve seen recently. We competed. They just didn’t dominate and blow us over.
“They’re very consistent,” Dubuy said of SJA. “They know who’s playing what position and what their roles are. At one point, I had to move three different players around in the middle of a set. We’re still trying to figure some of that out late into the season.”