The St. Joseph’s Academy tennis team is the 2018 Division I state champion, finishing first in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Tennis Tournament. The Redstickers scored 14 points to finish ahead of Mount Carmel (8), Parkway (6.5), Mandeville (6) and Denham Springs (5.5).
The Division I championship was held April 23 and 24 at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
The tennis team also won the state championship in 2017.
“From the beginning of the season, the team’s primary goal was to be state champions again,” said Coach Cindy Downs. “I’m so proud of them for working so hard each and every week, each and every tournament, each and every match, to accomplish our goal.”
SJA put two doubles teams into the championship match, with Mikala Noonan and Madison Cefalu beating Nikki Manuel and Madison Henderson to lead the title charge.
“Winning the state championship is a fantastic feeling,” Noonan said. “I got to the finals last year with the same doubles partner but unfortunately lost. So, it felt really good to redeem ourselves. It is such an honor to be able to contribute to the tennis team winning a state title for the second year in a row. Standing on the court surrounded by my beloved teammates and coaches while we received the trophy was truly a memorable experience.”
Cefalu said the state title was the perfect ending to the season. “All our hard work as a team paid off as we took home the state championship,” she said. “Mikala and I have been playing doubles together for two years. Last year, we just missed being doubles champions. We worked harder this season, and our dream was fulfilled.”
Manuel said repeating as state champs is a wonderful accomplishment. “It feels amazing,” she said. “Our team goal since the start of the season has been to win state, and through everyone’s hard work and enthusiasm, we made it happen. We are so happy, and we are pumped to make a 3-peat state title happen next year.”
Mindy Brodhead Averitt
Photos courtesy of Linda Messina