Ascension Catholic advances to state tournament

Michael Tortorich
The Bulldogs celebrate after the match point Friday night against Westminster Christian, sending them to the state tournament in Kenner. Shown, clockwise from top left, are Miranda Landry, Katie Pizzolato, MacKenzie Marroy, Catherine Rome and Kaitlyn Brooks. Photo by Michael Tortorich.

A thrilling win over Westminster Christian on Friday earned Ascension Catholic an appearance in the state tournament.

The No. 8 seed Bulldogs topped No. 9 Westminster Christian 25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-11 in front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Ascension Catholic gym.

With the regional victory, the Bulldogs advanced to the Division-V state tournament at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, Nov. 14-16.

Ascension Catholic will face No. 1 seed Metairie Park Country Day on Nov. 14 in the quarterfinal round. Metairie Park Country Day has dominated so far in sweeping No. 32 Ridgewood and No. 17 Riverside Academy.

Head coach Janelle Leonard, in her second season at Ascension Catholic, said she expected a tough match Friday from an opponent with similarities to her team.

"I'm so excited," Leonard said. "I had a lot of confidence in them. I was nervous, but I told them after practice I had never been more confident. I kew they were capable of winning this match tonight. It was just a matter of what they were going to do."

By getting past the regional round, the team accomplished one of its goals in advancing to the state tournament.

"They're an awesome group," Leonard said. "I have eight seniors, and they don't all see the court all the time. When I tell you, these girls are amazing people. Seeing the tears, and the girls on the bench with tears in their eyes, they all have tears of joy and are just happy for the whole team. It's amazing. They never complain. They cheer and support each other. We have a great group of seniors."

The last time Ascension Catholic earned a spot in the state tournament the current seniors were in eighth grade.

"They wanted to experience this, and I think they deserve it," Leonard said.

The awaiting challenge will be a great one. Metairie Park Country Day is the defending champion and the No. 1 seed. The team has won consecutive titles over the last three seasons. They've won nine championships over the last ten years.  

Despite the tall order, Leonard said the Bulldogs will be prepared no matter who lines up on the other side of the net.

"We're playing the No. 1 team, and they have lots of titles," she said. "I want to enjoy the ride and I want them to enjoy the ride. No matter what happens, you go over there and you play your heart out. If another team beats you, they beat you. We're not going to just go over there and lay down. We're going to go over there and play volleyball."