Episcopal, Dunham U-High, St. John seek to be in championship mix _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- University High's Marygrace Constantin taps the ball over the net for a point as St. Joseph's Sydney Davis watches. U-High plays Hannan in a Division IV quarterfinal at the state tournament Thursday.

Who could blame Episcopal and The Dunham School for wanting to party like it’s 2005 at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/Louisiana High School Athletic Association State Volleyball Tournament.

The Division IV Knights and Division V Tigers won state titles during the Hurricane Katrina year along with Parkview Baptist — the one time Baton Rouge schools have won three of five state titles.

This is a different decade and a new year filled with plenty of possibilities once the three-day tourney begins Thursday at Kenner’s Pontchartrain Center with quarterfinal action.

The new-year notion appeals to Division IV University High and Division V St. John-Plaquemine.

Another possibility to consider is whether Division V Catholic-Pointe Coupee can continue a Cinderella run.

“I’ve got seven seniors, and they’re hungry for the this,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “Some of them do play basketball, and they want to have that same success in volleyball.

“We’ve played a lot of good teams. We didn’t beat them all, but I feel like we’re prepare us for this.”

Fourth-seeded UHS (31-11) meets No. 5 Hannan (32-11) in a 9 a.m. quarterfinal that helps start the tourney, which concludes Saturday with five title matches.

The Cubs, who won the 3A girls basketball title last spring, aren’t alone. Ninth-seeded CHSPC (18-20) meets top-seeded Metairie Park Country Day (33-4), the defending champion, at 9 a.m. Also set for 9 a.m. is No. 4 St. John (31-9) vs. No. 12 First Baptist Christian (19-8).

Dunham and Episcopal play matches at 10:50 a.m. Eighth-seeded Episcopal (24-11) meets No. 1 Pope John Paul II (38-5) in Division IV, while No. 6 Dunham (18-20) faces No. 3 Sacred Heart-Grand Coteau (27-11) in Division V.

U-High was a semifinalist and has a history of deep playoff runs in Division IV. Episcopal makes its first tourney appearance since 2008. Both teams are healthy. Episcopal coach Briget Melancon is the one nursing an injury, suffering a possible torn ACL in Tuesday’s practice.

“The good news is it wasn’t one of my players,” Melancon said. “We set some very high goals and getting to the state tournament was one of them. I feel like we have all the ingredients it takes to be a great team. It’s a matter of putting all of it together for three days.”

The play of Erika Grant and Kaitlyn Walker, along with setter Charlotte Russell will be crucial for Melancon’s Knights. U-High is led by versatile Lindsay Flory and got a boost from the return of 6-foot-3 Marygrace Constantin from an injury. Terri Drake had 15 assists in UHS’ regional win.

St. John coach Chase Mancuso’s senior class is making its fourth straight tourney appearance and seeks a breakthrough win to advance to the semifinals. Payton Passantino, Carolyn Glaser and Claire Pearce help lead the Eagles.

Maddie Breaux had nine kills to help lead Renee Green’s Catholic-PC squad to an upset win over traditional power Episcopal School of Acadiana in the regional round. Dunham got 19 kills from Anna Catherine Padgett and 19 assists Alyssa Deason in its regional win.

“I was pleased with our last practice,” Dunham coach Donna Pixley said. “We started a little slow, but finished strong. We worked on a lot of situations. A lot of it, especially in a tournament like this is how you react. Do you fight back?”