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St. Thomas More outlasts crosstown rival Teurlings Catholic for Division II state volleyball crown

A sweet finish for Lady Cougars as they win their third straight title

LAFAYETTE, LOUISIANA - The Cajundome became a Candy Land of sorts for the St. Thomas More volleyball team for three days. 

Every year at a team retreat, the seniors reveal a theme for the upcoming season. This year's theme was the "Sweet Adventure" to the LHSAA state tournament.

The Cajundome was depicted as a candy castle on a huge, brightly colored sign that hung from the wall of the arena at Saturday's Division II final against Teurlings Catholic.

The outcome was sweet, too.

The top-seeded Lady Cougars (34-5) captured their third straight state title - and ninth overall - in four sets against the third-seeded Lady Rebels (32-13), their crosstown arch-rival.

STM and Teurlings Catholic were meeting in the championship for the third straight year. The district rivals met in the regular season in October, with the Lady Cougars winning in five sets (25-23, 18-25, 14-25, 25-19, 15-9).

"They're a great program," STM coach Jes Burke said of the Rebels. "It's fun to have somebody located that close to you who can challenge you in district. Players from both schools are on the same teams in the offseason.

"That's a blessing. It's neat to have great coaches and players over there. It honestly makes us better. Kudos to them."

The two programs have combined for 17 state titles. The Rebels, who won eight straight crowns before STM's current streak, were playing in their 11th consecutive championship.

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"I couldn't be more proud of this group," Teurlings Catholic coach Terry Hebert said. "Watching these kids grow up, not only on the court, but in my house. ... This senior group is special."

Hebert's daughter, Izzy, is one of seven seniors who played their last game in a Lady Rebel uniform on Saturday.

"They wanted to go out with a bang," Terry Hebert said. "I'm proud of them.

"Back in August, I don't think anybody expected to be sitting here. We had to move hitters around, put them out of position, outside of their comfort zone. They embraced it and look where we're at."

STM, which won in four sets (25-21, 19-25, 25-17, 25-23), hadn't lost a set in four previous playoff matches. Junior Rhyan Miciotto, who finished with 14 kills and 24 assists, was named Outstanding Player.

"Towards the end, it got very exciting," Miciotto said, "But we were able to come together as a team and finish it."

St. Thomas More coach Jes Burke (left) and junior Rhyan Miciotto - named the MVP - are interviewed following the Lady Cougars' win against Teurlings Catholic for the Division II volleyball championship on Nov. 11, 2023.

St. Thomas More coach Jes Burke (left) and junior Rhyan Miciotto - named the MVP - are interviewed following the Lady Cougars' win against Teurlings Catholic for the Division II volleyball championship on Nov. 11, 2023.

STM middle hitter Isabelle Billedeaux had 13 kills. Emma Broussard added 18 assists. Eleanor Guidry and Sophia Boumans provided 26 and 22 digs, respectively.

The Lady Cougars never trailed in the first set, leading by as many as five points on three occasions. Teurlings Catholic got within two, 23-21, before Claire Reed and Broussard scored to end the set.

Dee Asberry (20 kills) and Lola Blancher (11 kills) paced the Teurlings Catholic offense. Blancher added 26 digs, and libero Kenley Nonato collected 20 digs.

AC Hebert and Brooklyn Blanchard contributed 21 and 15 assists, respectively. The Lady Rebels served seven aces. Aubrey Lanclos had three aces, and AC Hebert added two.

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"After we lost the second set, our teammate Emma (Broussard) said we needed to go back to simple, disciplined movements," Guidry said. "That really helped us. I felt like we were trying to do too much."

The Lady Cougars scored six unanswered points in the third set to change a 5-5 tie to an 11-5 lead. Miciotto put down four consecutive shots during the barrage. Shortly thereafter, hitters Marvel Potier and Andi Duay each came up with a block.

"The big thing we worked on was trust," Billedeaux said. "At the beginning of the season, we had to learn how to trust each other. (Saturday), we showed that trust with how we played together."

"It's been a lot of work," Burke said. "Every day was work, work, work. This team never stopped learning. They never got to just rest on their laurels.

"They had to work hard. No days off. Every day the rent was due."

Photos by Buck Ringgold

-- Mike Coppage | @SBLiveLA