“This is day 14 on the road,” Southeastern Louisiana volleyball coach Jeremy White noted on Wednesday.
Hurricane Ida devastated parts of Louisiana, leaving so many hurting in its wake.
In our case, it also included volleyball.
High school teams in many areas, especially New Orleans, Hammond, LaPlace and the area called Northshore, north of Lake Pontchartrain, had to stop their seasons and many teams have not returned home.
A handful of NCAA volleyball programs were affected, too.
Tulane has headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, while Southeastern Louisiana has not returned to Hammond and has been in Lafayette, an area not affected by the storm.
Also in Lafayette, in the heart of Cajun Country, are the University of New Orleans and Nicholls State, whose home in the South Louisiana town of Thibodaux was hit hard.
Terry Hebert (pronounced A-Bear, not Hee-bert for those of you not from Louisiana) is the coach at Louisiana powerhouse Teurlings Catholic in Lafayette. Three of his former players are on the Southeastern Louisiana roster, junior Ariana Hebert, a setter who just happens to be his daughter, junior outside Jolie Hidalgo, and her younger sister, freshman outside Cicily Hidalgo. Junior outside Addie Vidrine, who went to Ascension Episcopal High School, is also from Lafayette.
Terry Hebert had six people at his house this past week from New Orleans, including Sacred Heart coach Jay Jay Juan and his family, and New Orleans volleyball icon Andrew Beyer.
Teurlings parents are stepping up, too. Of course the Hidalgo family has some staying at their house, including SLU coach White.
Jake Delhomme, the Teurlings product who led the Carolina Panthers to the 2004 Super Bowl, has a bunch at his house in nearby Breaux Bridge, “there’s three at another house, there’s five at another house, there are five at the Hidalgo house, they’re kind of piece-mealed all over Lafayette,” Hebert said with a laugh.
Southeastern left on Thursday, August 26, and opened its season at Mississippi State with losses on Friday, August 27, to Gonzaga, and Saturday, August 28, to Mississippi State. The storm arrived back in Hammond the next day so the Lions stayed in Starkville.
On Monday, they moved hotels and on Tuesday went to Auburn. Why Auburn? Because SLU was scheduled to play a home tournament the next weekend, but it was moved to Auburn in Alabama.
Southeastern lost to Cal State Fullerton and then Auburn.
“It’s been an experience,” White said. “Now we’re in Lafayette hanging out at Teurlings.”
Southeastern leaves Thursday for New Mexico, where at least it’s dry. The Lions play the home team, then UC San Diego, and Seattle. They’re driving to Houston and will fly from there.
White grew up near Beaumont, Texas, and has coached in various places on the Gulf of Mexico, including McNeese State in Lake Charles, Louisiana, so he is well-versed in hurricanes. His team will fly back to Houston with an eye on getting back to Hammond next week. The Lions are scheduled to play in a tournament at South Dakota State on September 17.
Nicholls State, which has practiced at St. Thomas More High School in Lafayette, also has two Teurlings player in freshmen DS Molly Webre and freshman outside Paide Guidry.
The Colonels are 5-1. They opened at home with wins over Texas Southern, Niagara, and Southern. Their home match August 31 against Northern Arizona was canceled before they ended up at TCU’s tournament, losing to the home team before beating UMBC and UTRGV. Nicholls, coached by Kallie Noble, plays at Jacksonville State in Alabama on Friday and plays Southern Miss and South Alabama on Saturday.
UNO first-year coach Ashley Preston took her team on a swamp tour Wednesday. Her Privateers opened with home losses to Tennessee State and UTRGV and then their match with Alcorn State was canceled. They couldn’t make it to their tournament at Jacksonville, Florida, last weekend, nor their match at Auburn tonight (Wednesday). They play in a tournament at California Baptist on Friday and Saturday.
Then there’s Tulane. Coach Jim Barnes’ team opened its season at home with a hurricane on the way. On Friday, the Green Wave beat Northwestern State and Alabama A&M with Cal scheduled for Saturday.
“We were going to play them at 2 and moved it back to 1,” Barnes said. “We were originally told we were going to stay (in New Orleans). I was talking to the administration and saying let’s get the heck out of here. So they decided that morning that after we finished our match at 1 that we would head out. We would just go (by bus) to Florida State because we were playing there the next weekend.”
Cal coach Sam Crosson had his own problems. The Bears’ flight out of New Orleans later that evening was canceled. Barnes told Crosson he should leave Sunday morning to bus to Houston (about five hours drive west under normal circumstances) and fly out from there.
“But he said, ‘I really want to play this game.’ And I told him we were leaving after the game, so it’s your call.”
Barnes grew up in Lake Charles, so he, too, respects hurricanes.
“He really wanted to play the match, so they worked it out where they would fly out of Houston at 6 a.m. (Sunday). We played the match (and Tulane won in four) … We got in the bus at 5 p.m. and got into Tallahassee at 5 a.m. … We got out just in time. The roads were jammed the whole way.”
Same going west.
“(Cal) took forever to get to Houston. They didn’t make the 6 a.m. flight.”
Indeed, Crosson told us their bus didn’t get to Houston until 8:30 a.m. and eventually they got on a 12:30 p.m. flight to San Francisco.
At Florida State, Tulane lost in five to VCU, got swept by Florida State, and then swept Samford.
Why Birmingham? It goes back to Hurricane Katrina, when Tulane had to evacuate in 2005. Birmingham is the safe place, so to speak.
“The whole athletic department is in one hotel,” Barnes said. “It’s just us, no one else.”
Tulane leaves Thursday morning for Springfield, Missouri, to play Louisiana-Monroe and Saint Louis on Friday and Missouri State on Saturday.
“We’re coming back here Saturday night,” Barnes said from Birmingham, “but the hope is we can go back to New Orleans on Sunday.”
Tulane’s home tournament September 17-18 with UAB, Sam Houston, and Texas Tech, has been moved to Birmingham.
LSU was also playing at home in Baton Rouge the weekend of the hurricane. The Tigers, who lost to Michigan on Friday and beat Northern Arizona on Saturday, morning, were scheduled to play Florida State that Saturday night but canceled the match. This past weekend they played at Penn State and had to go to Houston to fly out. Also in that tournament, the Michigan-NAU match Saturday afternoon was canceled.
Much worse was expected, but Baton Rouge, while getting plenty of high winds and rain, fortunately escaped the main brunt of Hurricane Ida. It weakened a bit and went slightly to the east before hitting Baton Rouge.