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E.D. White falls just short of title

E.D. White Catholic's Sydney Bordis (35) prepares to dig the ball during Saturday's Division III finals at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association's state volleyball tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. (Photo by Abby Tabor/Staff)

KENNER — E.D. White Catholic's season-long effort to win its second state volleyball title in school history came down to a fifth and decisive game during Saturday's Division III state championship match against Ursuline Academy.

The Lady Cardinals, who were the second seed in the Division III playoffs, opened the fifth game with an early 5-0 lead and held all the momentum.

But Ursuline, the No. 1-seeded team in the playoffs and defending Division III state champions, never lost its confidence, using its service game and aggressive net play to rally back and take the lead.

Once it got ahead, Ursuline took full control of the match and rolled to a 19-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16, 15-9 victory at the Pontchartrain Center.

It was the second-straight state title and third in the last four seasons for Ursuline (35-9 overall), while E.D. White (31-14) fell just short of winning its first championship since 2008.

"It was just a battle to the end," said E.D. White coach Mary Cavell, who has led the Lady Cardinals to one state title and seven state runner-up trophies. "They gave it everything they had. That's all we can ask of them."

E.D. White won two of the first three games of the match — using two straight kills from Madison Rodrigue to win a nail biter in Game 3 — to move just one victory away from a state title.

However, Ursuline got its service game going in Game 4, using the serving of Erin Regouffre (four aces) to steal the momentum and run away with a 25-16 win to tie the match at 2-all.

E.D. White used two kills from Emily Weimer and three errors from Ursuline to take a 5-0 lead in Game 5, but Lauren Barre ignited the Lady Lions sideline with three straight kills, sparking a 6-1 run to tie the match.

With the match tied at 8, Ursuline's Sydney Morris blasted a shot that skimmed off the hand of E.D. White's Sydney Bordis, putting the Lady Lions ahead by one.

Ursuline reeled off five straight points to take full-control of the game and match at 14-8. E.D. White scored one more point on an error, but Ursuline sealed the win with a Rachel Rabalais kill on match-point.

Cavell said both teams fought hard and answered each other's intensity, which was evident in the 27 ties and 14 lead changes in the match.

But Cavell said the turning point was Ursuline's service game late in the match.

"We couldn't get our offense in," Cavell said. "Their service game got us out of our offense, and they were able to do what they wanted. It was a battle all the way through. I was proud of the girls. They fought back toward the end, but evidently, their service was the difference."

Ursuline coach Jay Jay Juan, who has won six state titles (three at Ursuline and Mt. Carmel each) as a coach, said the Lady Lions stepped up their intensity when it counted.

"It was a great win," Juan said. "I'm glad the kids believe in the philosophy we have here of being able to play tough defense, serving and controlling the net. That was a part of (Saturday's) win."

Juan praised the effort of Cavell and the Lady Cardinals, saying that he knew the championship match would be a heavyweight bout between the top two-seeds in Division III.

"(Cavell) has some great teams," Juan said. "We knew that coming in. We had to defend their middles (Weimer and Michelle Riviere). That was one of our goals. They are really good. You look at her teams up and down. They transition real well. They are well-disciplined. They play their best every play and fight hard."

Barre, who led Ursuline with 15 kills, said their experience in championship matches kept them motivated when E.D. White threatened to run away in Game 5.

"We've been here before, so we have a lot of experience," Barre said. "As a team, we just had to rally together and take one point at a time."

Weimer, who was named the most outstanding player of Saturday's match, finished with a match-high 20 kills and 24 blocks, but she said none of it would have been possible without her teammates.

"I give credit to my team," said Weimer, a junior. "They were behind me 100 percent. I can't do it without their passes or their sets. We put our hearts into it. We put everything into it. We just fell a little short."

Other leaders for the Lady Cardinals were Riviere (10 kills, nine blocks), Claire Chaisson (six aces, 26 assists), Rodrigue (two aces), Aimee' Brien (12 assists) and Bordis (23 digs).

Morris added 10 kills and six blocks for Ursuline. Other leaders for the Lady Lions were Megan Johnson (24 assists), Sarah Tyson (37 digs) and Regouffre (20 digs).