At times the action was fast and furious.
More than anything else, Wednesday’s McKinley Jamboree offered the chance for the curious to see how competitive high school volleyball in the Baton Rouge area can be this fall.
The 20-team jamboree held at Louisiana School for the Deaf didn’t disappoint. Teams showcased a wide array of abilities. The results of the 21-point sets don’t count on anyone’s record. Experience was what most teams were going for and they got it.
Defending Division I state champion St. Joseph’s Academy was one of five teams to sweep three jamboree games. Broadmoor, St. Michael the Archangel, University High and the SJA junior varsity were the others unbeatens.
“A jamboree is one of the unique things we do,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “It’s not like a scrimmage where the coaches control certain things and it’s not like a regular match where it’s a best-of-five sets.
“There are times when it’s frantic because there’s so much going on. You’ve got action on two courts and people everywhere. But it’s good because the girls get a chance to show what they can do in a gym where it can get really loud. We graduated eight seniors from last year and we didn’t have everybody playing tonight, but I like what this team is doing.”
The SJA junior varsity team allowed 21 points in its wins over Glen Oaks, Louisiana School for the Deaf and Woodlawn in the pool of four teams that served up the first action at 3:30 p.m. More than six hours later, University High closed it out with a 21-20 win over Central.
“We did it, but just barely,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said when asked about going unbeaten. “At the beginning I thought we played a little tight, but as we continued to play they relaxed.”
Broadmoor pulled off a surprise by going 3-0 in the second pool. Coach Maria Gonzalez’s seven-member varsity team allowed plenty of points, but won its last two sets over Live Oak (21-19) by McKinley (21-20) by narrow margins.
“I have a very small team, but it’s a good group,” Gonzalez said. “They hustle, they work together and they did a lot of good things today. We still have a lot to work on.
“We came back from behind in every single game and they did not give up. I’m proud of them for that.”
Then it was fast-forward into the third pool. St. Joseph’s varsity opened with a 21-5 win over Redemptorist. The Redstickers allowed 22 points in their three sets, also beating Parkview Baptist (21-9) and Episcopal (21-8).
“As a team we worked well together and we’ve been putting things together in practice,” SJA’s Katherine Young said. “Our rhythm was really good. There are so many teams and it’s such a variety and it’s good to play different types of teams. We like it (jamboree).”
St. Michael and Baton Rouge High each won their first two sets in the fourth pool. Though the Warriors edged the Bulldogs 21-17 to go unbeaten, BRHS coach Sheila Achee was all smiles.
“I’m very pleased to go 2-1,” Achee said. “It shows were ahead of where we were at this point last year. And I’ll take that.
BRHS senior Sayle Sanson gave credit to St. Michael for its win, but also gave her team and the jamboree itself high marks.
“We either learned what we need to pick up on and do better or we were winning,” Sanson said. “I was definitely looking forward to watching some of my friends play for Parkview. And I definitely liked watching all the competition.”
The final pool also netted a furious finish as U-High edged to Central. The Dunham School finished 2-1, something that pleased coach Donna Pixley,
“We’ve worked a ton on individual skills stuff,” Pixley said. “We played much better as a team than I anticipated. I thought I was going to change my lineup a little more than I did, but we found one that worked and went with it.”
Going with flow, whatever it happened to be, was the order of the day for the top teams. And it was an abbreviated chance to step into the spotlight before the regular season begins Tuesday.
“It’s a great place to come and see all the talent in the Baton Rouge area, especially before the season begins,” St. Joseph’s coach Sivi Miller said of the jamboree. We don’t see some of these teams during the regular season. That’s one of the reasons we like it.”