Three Baton Rouge schools made it out of pool play and into the seven-team championship bracket of the eighth annual South Louisiana Invitational Volleyball Tournament, but in the end it was two New Orleans powerhouses — second-seeded Ben Franklin and top-seeded Louise McGehee — that squared off in the final.
McGehee shook off a first-set loss to regain momentum and win the championship match 2-1 (22-25, 25-14, 15-12) in the only three-set match of the day.
McGehee led 21-20 in the first set before the Falcons tied it at 21 on a kill by Angela Higginson.
The point that followed was one of the longest and most intense of the day, with Higginson ending it on her second straight kill. She then collected an ace on the final point to put Ben Franklin up 1-0 in the match.
“The first set we made a lot of passing errors, but then we got our passing back on point,” McGehee coach Val Whitfield Dunn said. “In the second set, we started to control the ball more. Going in to the third set we knew it was anybody’s game.”
Tournament MVP Julia Felix came out blazing in the second set, leading the Hawks to a 16-7 lead and tallying six kills in their 25-14 win.
Felix and Ben Franklin’s Allison Olsonoski, who are teammates on a club team, opened the third set with a kill apiece. After Franklin scored three points in a row to tie the set at 9-9, McGehee went ahead 13-9 behind a powerful kill by Taylor Ducros and two aces by Amber Labat.
Another kill by Higginson and two kills by Olsonoski pulled the Falcons within one, but another kill by Ducros gave the Hawks game point, and Felix converted with a push shot off Olsonoski hand for the win.
Felix leaped with excitement following the winning point.
“They’re a hard team, and we have a lot of relationships with girls on their team,” she said. “Whenever we meet up with each other it’s a great game.”
Thirty-six teams started pool play on Friday at Woodlawn High, Woodlawn Middle School, and Baton Rouge High, with the winners in pool play advancing to the finals at Woodlawn High on Saturday.
Central eliminated Baton Rouge High (25-18, 25-22) in the quarterfinal round before falling to McGehee (25-19, 25-9) in the semis.
St. Michael fell to Barbe of Lake Charles 25-15 and 27-25 in the quarterfinals.
Ben Franklin made it to final with wins over Slidell and Barbe.
“I was proud of our girls, but at the end there I think we kind of ran out of steam,” Ben Franklin coach Jodee Pulizzano said. “We were on defense the whole time, and we didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball on our side.
“I wish we could have won it in the end, but we took them to three (sets) and we had an opportunity.”
The all-tournament team consisted of St. Martinville’s Raina Mason, Baton Rouge High’s Loren Jones, Central’s Kathryn Mancuso, Hahnville’s Kylie Roux and Barbe’s Kristian Daniels, U-High’s Destiny Ephrom, Belle Chasse’s Hayley Barbazon, Zachary’s Leanne Sorrel, St. Michael’s Allison Rodrigue, Lakeshore’s Caroline Golden, Southern Lab’s Payten Clark, Ben Franklin’s Olsonoski and Claire Molaison, and McGehee’s Felix, Ducros and Naya Gros.
Woodlawn will host another major tournament later this month when 32 teams compete in the “Rumble in the Jungle” on Sept. 25 and 26.