Advocate staff photo by John Oubre -- Baton Rouge High's Sayle Sanson gets a shot over Woodlawn's Ashley Porter during the championship match of Tara Slammin’ Volleyball Classic on Saturday at Tara High.

It wasn’t the start Baton Rouge High coach Sheila Achee or her team desired.

Woodlawn won the first set of the championship final at the Tara Slammin’ Volleyball Classic 25-19 and led by as much as five points in the second set.

That’s when BRHS senior Sayle Sanson stepped in. Sanson’s four kills and block helped the Bulldogs rally to win the second set 25-22 paving the way for a 15-13 win in set three and a tourney title Saturday night at Tara.

“Sayle leads mostly by example,” Achee said. “Tonight, she lit the fire. We had other players who were steady, but she really brought it, especially in the final.”

Sanson, who was voted the MVP of the two-day tourney, finished with 11 kills.

“This means the whole world to us,” Sanson said. “Most of us have been waiting four years for something like this so it’s amazing.

“The whole tournament it was about focusing and not taking any team for granted. It was all about hope and pride. At the end we just had to push through.”

The Bulldogs (11-5) had a tougher route to the final. With Woodlawn (12-9) watching after winning its semifinal over Live Oak, BRHS got pushed to three sets by Scotlandville.

“When you get to this point of a tournament, anything can happen,” Woodlawn coach Nelson Malpica said. “Baton Rouge High has improved a lot since we played at the beginning of the year, especially their defense.

“My younger people really stepped it up. Before we were playing only six people and now I’m playing 12. At the end I thought we were playing not to lose instead to win, but we can learn from that.”

All three sets played by the two Division I rivals were close. The teams traded the lead early in the first set. An ace by Victoria Cole gave Woodlawn the lead for good at 7-6.

Yet the Panthers didn’t extend their lead to a comfortable margin until the end of the set.

Meghan Luker had two kills, followed by three Leah Williams kills that closed out the 25-19 victory.

Woodlawn led 9-4 early in the second set. Sanson had a couple of kills that helped the Bulldogs tie it 13-13. She later gave BRHS a 21-20 lead that catapulted the Bulldogs to their 25-22 win.

The Panthers raced ahead 4-0 in the third set only to see BRHS come right back to tie it. The score was tied three more times before Gracie Tate’s ace made it 12-11. BRHS led 14-11. Another kill by Williams got Woodlawn within one. A hitting error by the Panthers gave Baton Rouge High the last point it needed.