Volleyball season is on its way and a trio of teams took the court Wednesday in preparation for what they hope will be great years.
Cabrini played host for the three-way scrimmage with Mt. Carmel and Sacred Heart making the trip to the Crescent’s gym. There were three matches total with each contest consisting of two games with a 20-minute running clock.
Five-time Division I champion Mt. Carmel took the court first against two-time Division II runner-up Cabrini in front of packed house. The Cubs then followed with a match against Sacred Heart, and Cabrini came back for the final match to take on the Cardinals.
Mt. Carmel took the most sets winning three of their four including a split with Cabrini, which won two of its four sets. Sacred Heart won the final game of the night over Cabrini.
The work each team got was far more important than the results, though, and each team had different aspects of their group they’re looking to improve.
For the Cubs, building a new identity after losing one of the state’s best players in quite some time is their primary objective.
“Everybody had the spotlight on Ellie (Holzman),” said Mt. Carmel coach April Hagadone of Holzman, a three-time Gatorade Player of the Year. “It’s hard sometimes playing with someone like Ellie and I think it’s going to me more of a team effort (this year) and I see that Emily Meyer’s been stepping up. She’s always been a standout but I can see it even more this year.”
“I think this team is going to be really different from last year,” Meyer said. “So many of our players have matured training for this season and we’re all a lot stronger, and I think it’s going to be more of a team effort this year than just all focused on one person. We’re all just really excited about this season and contributing to the wins.”
There are still high expectations at Mt. Carmel despite the loss of Holzman, and they still have several of the state’s top players including Meyer, Tea Jones and setter Tori Frught to name a few.
The group has been playing together for several years now, and have begun to form a close bond with one another.
“It’s super fun (being with the team),” Jones said. “We’re always with each other having a good time and it’s a privilege to be playing with them on the court.”
Jones’ time on the court along with the other starters was somewhat limited, which was the case with all three teams as the scrimmage served as an opportunity to get the younger players a few extra game-like reps.
When the starters were on the floor, though, it was difficult to argue who the top player was.
Outside hitter Kai Williams is heading into her final season and has a plethora of Division I programs hoping to get her signature. The 5-foot-11 senior is unquestionably one of the state’s top players, and some even consider her to be the best.
“I would like to think I am but I’m not a cocky person,” Williams said. “So even when people do compliment me I just say ‘thank you,’ I don’t like to brag about stuff. I would say I am but it comes from hard work, it wasn’t given.”
While the debate continues, Williams will continue to give out a bunch of kills just as she did on Tuesday.
The Crescents are hoping for a breakthrough season after falling in the title game each of the last two seasons, both times to Teurlings Catholic. They return the vast majority of last year’s roster, though, and now have a team with a ton of championship experience.
“Hopefully we can win a state championship my last year,” Williams said. “We only lost two seniors — a libero and an outside hitter — but the majority of our seniors that we have now are starters and we have eight seniors, so we’re working on it and we’re getting there.”
Like, Cabrini, Sacred Heart also returns a healthy amount of experience, and they’re hoping to return to the semifinals for the first time since 2014 after four straight exits in the quarterfinals.
“We’re definitely older and have more experience,” Cardinals coach Ashley Ruckert said. “We raise the bar higher and keep pushing them. We have high goals and some stuff to work on along the way, so we’ll see where we are in the end.”
Sacred Heart opens its regular season schedule September 4 at Ben Franklin while Mt. Carmel and Cabrini get started on September 3 at home against Northshore and Dominican, respectively.
The Cubs and Crescents will also meet on September 11 for a matchup that will be VSN Louisiana’s Game of the Week.