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How the spirit of Lafayette uplifted Nicholls State and Southeastern's volleyball following Hurrican

Koki Riley, The Advertiser, Sept. 16, 2021

Initially, Terry Hebert was just supposed to host a friend.

The Teurlings Catholic High School volleyball coach knew JJ Juan — his friend since their club volleyball days in the 1990s  — needed help. Juan's parents were struggling in the New Orleans heat and didn't have any power to combat it due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida.

"I said, 'Look man you need to pack it up and get down here,' " Hebert said. 

Juan wanted to stay at a hotel, but they were all booked and Hebert insisted that the family live with them. So him and his family went to Lafayette and stayed with the Heberts for five days.

Hebert's friend Andrew Meyer was also at the house.

"I'm fortunate enough to live in the house I grew up in," Hebert said. "We have four bedrooms and three of them were accessible to him."

But only hours later did Hebert find himself hosting more people in need.

Southeastern Louisiana University and Nicholls State volleyball teams needed to stay somewhere after the destruction caused by Hurricane Ida shut down their campuses and athletics facilities.

Looking for a place to call home, Hebert, among many others in the Lafayette area, gave these players and coaches a place to live, eat and train in the wake of the storm. 

This is the story of how these schools were welcomed by the Lafayette community.

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL:The story behind Teurlings Catholic's eight consecutive volleyball state championships

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Southeastern comes to town

Ariana Hebert is used to seeing her dad being busy.

"I've never seen the man just sit down and relax, if I'm being honest," Ariana said.

So she wasn't surprised when she learned her dad — Terry Hebert — was organizing plans for her and her Southeastern teammates to stay in Lafayette while the school's campus was without power.

"I'm really happy that I grew up with him as my dad because I've just seen how many people he's helped," Ariana said. "I know my role in the world is to be like him and give a helping hand. I get so much joy in helping others. I think he feels the same way.

"If he can help someone in any way he's going to do it."

The Lions hadn't been in Louisiana for over a week, playing matches and waiting out the storm at Mississippi State and Auburn. On the Saturday following the Hurricane, they made the drive to Lafayette, arriving there that night.

The Southeastern Louisiana University and Teurlings Catholic high school volleyball teams take a picture together on Wednesday, Sept. 8 2021
Photo of Teurlings and Southeastern team, compliment of Terry Hebert, Sept. 8, 2021.

The team was in Lafayette for five days, as Southeastern players and coaches stayed at the homes of five different Teurlings Catholic volleyball families. Among those hosts was former Carolina Panthers quarterback and Super Bowl runner-up Jake Delhomme.

Delhomme's daughter, Lindsey, is a freshman volleyball player at Teurlings.

"Luckily enough we had a couple of beds, I guess you can say available," Delhomme said. "So that's what we did, just trying to help out like everybody else did."

Host families provided dinner to players and coaches on Tuesday and Wednesday night, although Southeastern had most of their meals together as a team. Numerous Teurlings families who weren't housing players or coaches also offered their homes, while others sent money to help pay for Southeastern's meals.

The two teams also had lunch together on one of the days.

"I sent an email out and within 30 minutes we had a bed for every kid and we had a gym lined up," Hebert said. "I have some great parents man, some great, great parents."

"It was pretty tremendous what everybody was doing for us," Jeremy White, Southeastern's volleyball coach, said.

The Lions also practiced and worked out at Teurlings, as gym classes and the Rebels' sports teams adjusted their day-to-day schedules to accommodate them.

Hebert organized a schedule for Teurlings and Southeastern, avoiding any potential conflicts between the two teams' routines.

"We have a rotating block schedule so we don't have the same time every day. But our coaches were all accommodating," Hebert said. "They were like, 'Look man, if we have to get out of the weight room for (them), we'll do it. If we have to put the kids outside on the track doing laps instead of doing something (in the weight room) we'll do it.'

"Every single person that was affected by it was all willing to do what they could to make it happen."

Southeastern is now back on campus following their road trip last weekend to New Mexico State. Hosting a collegiate volleyball team in the middle of their own high school season wasn't easy, but Hebert doesn't regret a single moment of the experience.

"When each class walked into the gym and saw Southeastern practicing, I think it shows them that when people are in the time of need it's not always clothes and water and food," Hebert said. "For them, this is their livelihood. This is how they pay for school.

"That's good to show them those real life, real world experiences."

Nicholls State arrives

Aimee Guidry was prepared to house all 18 of her daughter’s  teammates.

Nicholls State's volleyball team, the program her daughter Paige Guidry plays for, was without a home after Hurricane Ida caused damage to Nicholls' campus.

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Just a day before Ida arrived, Nicholls' players were directed to go home to their families. The team eventually met up again on the Tuesday following the storm in Texas and arrived at Guidry's house in Lafayette on the Saturday following the storm.

"We were all just eating at my house," Paige Guidry, a former Teurlings volleyball player, said. "It was so random."

Nicholls freshman Molly Webre — also a Teurlings alum — took in four players at her house, but the rest of the team stayed with the Guidry's.

In taking care of the majority of the team, Paige Guidry had never seen her Mom this busy before.

"(My Mom's) just was making food and making beds and doing laundry," Paige Guidry said.

The team held workouts and practices at St. Thomas More. Paige Guidry knows Cougars coach Jessica Burke from her time playing club volleyball for her, and asked if Nicholls could use their facilities.

"They were like 'If y'all need anything, let us know,' " Guidry said. "They were very supporting and welcoming."

The Colonels will finally get to stay on campus Sunday for the first time in four weeks. But nothing about the adventure Nicholls' team went on was stress free. 

"It's been stressful on some people because we've really been running around and some people don't have everything they need," Paige Guidry said. "We're like being chaotic with moving and having enough clothes.

"I think people (were) just going with it, like we can't change anything about it."

A helpful hand

Beyond the hospitality provided by Teurlings and St. Thomas More, the University of Louisiana also hosted the University of New Orleans volleyball team at their campus.

The team used the Ragin' Cajuns facilities for practices and workouts. They were also fed by the school and lived on their campus.

According to Hebert, all three programs were at one point in Lafayette at the same time last week.

"It was possible that all three of these colleges would be practicing at Teurlings," Hebert said.

In Delhomme's eyes, actions from the likes of Hebert, UL and Guidry are unsurprising. He believes that the helpful hand the Lafayette community has shown to these programs in need is what makes the area special.

"There is no doubt that (helping others) is exactly what this community entails. You talk about a core belief or core trait, I think that's something that's deep down for the people in this area," Delhomme said. "They're good people and they're willing to help when somebody is in need.

"The way of life of people down here is that they're going to roll up their sleeves and they're going to help their neighbor," Delhomme added. “That's something we take pride in."


 



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