The Natchitoches Central Chiefs Volleyball team traveled to Ruston High School to compete in a district match Tuesday, Sept. 27. The Ruston Bearcats have long been a rival of the Chiefs; the student section was packed with Ruston fans anticipating an exciting game. The Chiefs prepared for this game weeks in advance, watching film, taking notes and perfecting their play. Ruston is the most challenging opponent in the Lady Chief’s district this season, so neither team was willing to give up the District Champion title without a fight.
The Chiefs began the first set confidently, with senior Chloe Coutee scoring the first point with an ace. However, the Chiefs could not maintain a lead and fell 25-18. Captain Bailey Newlee rallied her team after the first set and encouraged her teammates to come out harder in the second set. The Chief’s offense shone in the second set, with hitters picking on Ruston’s open spots. The bearcats utilized a triple block, which leaves the short corners open for tips. The Chiefs struggled to keep their error counts low and let the Bearcats creep in. However, Central narrowly maintained their lead and ended the set 25-22. The momentum propelled them forward during the third set. Middle blocker Lora Cole, 6 feet, 2 inches, went up against a similarly statured middle and impressively led the team in kills, thanks to her clever ball placement. Proving to be a shining game for the middle blockers, middle hitter Makira Carpenter led the team in solo blocks, shutting down the Bearcat’s offense. Natchitoches Central closed the third set 25-22, and set their sights on ending the game with a fourth set.
The rowdy student section of Ruston Bearcats continued their jeering and taunting, and the Chiefs came out with a weak start. The Bearcats knew what was on the line with this set: District Champions. With every kill and serve, Ruston made it known that they would not be giving away this title without a fight. The Chiefs struggled offensively; the short tips and deep line shots were no longer scoring. Disappointed and tired, the Chiefs conceded the set 25-17.
Both teams dreaded what was ahead, the fifth set. With only 15 points, a fifth set leaves little room for error and no time to dig holes. Natchitoches Central would need to dig deep and play with precision to come away victorious. After four sets of watching and adjusting to Ruston’s sizable block and quick defense, the Chiefs could pull a lead and run a more effective offense. Head Coach Kerri Kiercofe highlights the importance of the crowd and the player’s attitudes saying, “I think without the Natchitoches Central parents and fans that were cheering the girls on we would not have been as successful. Having support that they can see and hear makes all the difference. I’m so proud of the level heads the girl’s kept, too. They kept calm in the face of a nerve-racking game, which allowed them to play their best.”
The Chiefs kept level heads, indeed, and battled for each point, finally ending the set 16-14, and the match 3-2. This win was historical for the Chiefs, with each team, Freshman, JV, and Varsity each ending the night triumphant against the Bearcats.
With Ruston eliminated, the only district match remaining for Natchitoches Central is West Monroe. Looking forward, the Chiefs challenge Many High School at Many Wednesday, Oct. 5. NCHS is currently ranked eighth for Louisiana Division 1 Volleyball and hopes to maintain its top 10 status.