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Dominican 'four-peats' as Division I volleyball champion after surviving epic fourth set

Defending champions get 33-31 win to finish off Mount Carmel Academy

LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA - Appropriately enough, in order for Dominican to win a fourth straight state championship, it had to experience an epic fourth set.

In one of the more memorable sets in the history of the LHSAA state volleyball championships, Dominican survived that fourth set, 33-31, to beat district rival Mount Carmel Academy for the Division I title. Dominican prevailed 3-1 (25-14, 25-23, 19-25, 33-31) to win that fourth straight championship in a rematch of last season's title tilt.

“That was probably one of the most exciting matches, I’m sure as a fan,” Dominican coach Jessica Chatellier said. “It was a little bit of a heart-attack match for us on the bench, but we talked about it before, our match (Saturday) and leading into this moment, this is the only group that I could say I would feel 100 percent confident in that situation that they’re going to find a way.

“They have been the type of group that, when we get challenged, they respond, and (Saturday) we were challenged and I think we responded very well.”

Dominican (43-2) seemed to be well on its way to a decisive win in that fourth set after building leads of 12-6, 18-14 and 21-18. But the Cubs fought back, and turned away a Dominican match point by tying the score at 24-all.

MCA then had three chances to force a decisive fifth set, but couldn’t get the point. Dominican then had three chances themselves to take match point, but each time, the Cubs answered, including a kill from senior hitter Caroline Harris to tie it up at 31-all.

Finally, the defending state champions got that elusive match point. A kill from junior middle Zoie Mitchell made it 32-31; then senior outside hitter Cam Chatellier finally ended the marathon set with a kill that landed just inside the right sideline.

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“Our team motto is ‘We climb,’ and we always know that when you’re climbing a mountain, there’s going to be a lot of hard growth that you’re going to have to travel up and get through,” said Cam Chatellier - named the Most Outstanding Player. “I feel like we really lived out that motto (Saturday) because we just had balls that we like would put everything into and they would still hit the ground, but then I feel like the next point, we would just come back and be like, ‘Yes, we’re getting this next ball, let’s just keep pushing.’

“We talked about trust (Friday night) in our hotel room, and I feel like there was just so much trust that the next person was going to put the ball away every single time. … We just kind of kept pushing and trusted the person next to you and it was incredible to watch.”

Dominican senior Cam Chatellier was awarded the Most Outstanding Player following her team's win in the Division I state volleyball title match Nov. 11, 2023.

Dominican senior Cam Chatellier was awarded the Most Outstanding Player following her team's win in the Division I state volleyball title match Nov. 11, 2023.

Dominican appeared to be well on its way to a decisive sweep from the get-go, jumping out to an 11-3 lead in the opening set and extending it to 10, 15-5, before handily taking it.

Then in the second set, back-to-back kills from Chatellier followed by a kill from Mitchell gave Dominican a 22-16 advantage. MCA did make a run, getting within 24-23 on a kill from junior outside hitter Giselle Estrada, but Mitchell delivered a kill on the next point to put Dominican a set away from another title.

One player Jessica Chatellier gave credit to was her senior setter, Gabby Marcello, who finished with an astonishing 65 assists.

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“Gabby did a great job (Saturday) of making sure that we did what we do best, and that’s run a really fast offense, and she did a good job of forcing our middles,” Jessica Chatellier said. “In set one and set two, I feel like our pace was so fast that they were struggling to keep up with us.

“She did a great job of maintaining that through the match and our middles just came alive and they were killing it, especially in set one and set two.”

But with the late momentum surge in the second set, the Cubs carried that into the third set to extend the match. It started with an 8-3 run that turned a 12-10 deficit into an 18-15 lead, and the Cubs maintained that the rest of the set.

Then came the fourth set, which was a test of wills for both squads.

“That was my first set where that went quite that high,” Jessica Chatellier said. “I’ve had sets where we’ve come back from huge deficits, I’ve had moments where we went into extra points, but I don’t think I’ve gone past 30, so that was a first for me.

“I turned to both my assistant coaches and I was like, how close are we on subs? I knew we had to be getting close because it was running into those extra points. … When you run that far into a set, and I knew if we could just keep managing through, we would be able to finish the match.”

Cam Chatellier finished with 21 kills and a block. Another senior, middle Tamia Williams, had 19 kills and two blocks.

Junior libero Lauren Pipitone recorded 33 digs, and freshman Aurore Tortorich had 25.

For MCA (30-8), Estrada had 18 kills, and junior hitter Julia Savois had 10. Junior setter Emma Richey had 44 assists, 21 digs and served two aces.

But in the end, it was Dominican with yet another state championship.

“We talk about being thankful all the time and this is something I’m so grateful for, to have this opportunity more than once,” Marcello said.

-- Buck Ringgold | | @SBLiveLA