A fall open season is typically an invitation for hunters to track a particular prey. Open season takes on new meaning at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Volleyball tournament starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Second-seeded St. Joseph’s Academy (28-13) of Division I and No. 2 St. Michael the Archangel (29-4) of Division III lead a local contingent who seek a “big game” mentality for three days at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center.
“Nobody has dominated Division I this year,” SJA coach Sivi Miller said. “We have all played well at different times of the year. When I look at it, I’m not sure what to expect. With that said, my team has grown through the year and is as capable of winning and contending just like any of the others. If we limit unforced errors, we give ourselves a chance.”
A chance is all the nine-team local contingent is looking for. Quarterfinals start with St. Michael vs. No. 10 De La Salle (22-19) at 9 a.m. They extend through 8 p.m. when SJA meets No. 7 Acadiana (24-8) and ninth-seed Baton Rouge High (28-12) faces No. 1 Mt. Carmel (32-6) in Division I.
“There are two divisions where I think you see who is going to win it now,” St. Michael's Rob Smith said. “The rest are wide open, and that’s exciting for the local teams.”
In Division II, top-seeded Teurlings Catholic (39-0) looks to finish an unbeaten season after winning the pervious four Division III titles. The Rebels meet Lafayette rival No. 9 St. Thomas More (24-19), also a 8 p.m. STM has won a series of Division II titles since 2010. Country Day (33-6) has won all but one Division V title since 2010.
There are multiple storylines. Baton Rouge High is in the LHSAA tourney for the first time since 1990. St. Amant, a No. 14 seed, was a sub .500 team for much of the year but ousted No. 3 East Ascension to make its eighth straight tourney appearance. Parkview Baptist (34-7) of Division III and Division IV University (34-6) are No. 3 seeds.
“I think every single team in our division has the ability to win it,” Parkview coach Becky Madden said. “You have to stay in the here and now. We know we can’t look past Brusly. They’re a scrappy, determined team that comes to win.”
The 11th-seeded Panthers (27-12) meet Parkview at 10:50 a.m. in the lone all-local matchup. The viral-pneumonia death of sophomore Brionna Ross last month is a rallying point for U-High. The Cubs are on the opposite side of the bracket from defending champion Pope John Paul II (30-2), the No. 1 seed and No. 4 Archbishop Hannan (25-8).
“I feel good about where we are,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “We’ve practiced well. They’re relaxed and prepared.”
In Division V, St. John (21-9) is back in the tournament as a No. 5 seed with first-year coach Caitlin Hester. Catholic-PC (23-17) is seeded seventh.
“At this point, it’s all about who can finish,” Smith said.