Miami-Dade High Schools

At last, Lourdes Academy athletics have all the comforts of home

The new gymnasium at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy.
The new gymnasium at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Miami Lourdes Academy’s status as a contender in sports such as basketball and volleyball has been recognized for some time.

But this season, the Bobcats finally achieved true home-court advantage.

As part of renovations that began two years ago at the all-girls private school that include a new 24,000-square-foot classroom building, athletic training center and chapel, Lourdes completed construction of its first-ever on-campus gym during the summer.

“It’s been a huge difference they can practice after school,” Lourdes athletic director and alumnus Maura Herholz said. “It’s been nice to see more life on our campus after school as well with kids sticking around there. It’s enhanced school pride.”

Herholz said the gym also houses an athletic training room that was sponsored by Doctors Hospital, which also sponsored a sports-medicine program for the students.

The Bobcats’ volleyball team played its first match in the gym Aug. 26 against Southwest in front of a capacity crowd of roughly 1,000, and has since played three matches this season, losing that opening match to Southwest, beating Braddock and losing a close match to 2013 Class 8A state semifinalist Ferguson.

“This was an idea that’s been contemplated since the 1990s,” said longtime Lourdes basketball coach and Columbus athletic director Chris McKeon. “Our principal, Sister Kathryn Donze, got the ball rolling finally, and she was a big proponent that Lourdes’ athletes needed their own place to play for a long time.”

For years, Lourdes’ teams played games and practiced at nearby all-boys’ private schools Columbus and Belen Jesuit.

Although the Bobcats always had a home nearby thanks to their all-male counterparts, it often forced the team to work around inconvenient scheduling conflicts it has been able to avoid this season.

“We some times had to wait to practice as late as 8:30 at night,” McKeon said. “I always thought it made our girls a little tougher. But Belen and Columbus were always generous. I remember when [former Ferguson athletic director] Bob Zell used to let us use his gym late sometimes. But this is certainly going to help our programs for sure.”

The Lourdes volleyball team (5-2) is coming off a regional semifinal appearance last season, and is vying for its first appearance in the state finals.

Lourdes’ basketball team has yet to claim a state championship, but has been a state runner-up twice (1998, 2010). The Bobcats’ basketball team plays its first home game in the gym against North Miami Beach in early November.