The field has been set, and now the race for the LHSAA girls soccer state title has begun.
The LHSAA released its playoff brackets on Tuesday that include four divisions with 24 teams in each bracket.
The top eight teams in each bracket will receive first-round byes and host second-round matches.
In total, the New Orleans area had 11 teams earn first-round byes while another 18 teams will play first-round matches this week.
The LHSAA state champions will be held nightly beginning Feb. 24 at Tad Gormley Stadium with the Division IV championship match and concluding on Feb. 27 with the Division I championship match. Each match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Below is a breakdown of New Orleans-area squads in each division.
The New Orleans area has three teams earning first-round playoff byes. No. 3 Mount Carmel (17-1-7) leads the group while District 4-I champ St. Scholastica (13-2-4) is No. 4. Those two squads met in last year’s state championship when the Doves were victorious. No. 7 Fontainebleau (18-2-3) is the other District 4-I team enjoying a break in the opening round.
“The message for us is to play who is in front of us,” Mount Carmel coach Pavlos Petrou said. “It’s a tough bracket. We could play Northshore in the second round, and they are in no way a No. 19 team, so it’ll be a challenge. We just know that we have to play our best to advance.”
No. 9 Mandeville (23-4-3) just missed out on a bye and will host No. 24 Denham Springs in the first round while No. 11 Dominican (9-11-5) will play 22nd-seeded Baton Rouge.
A pair of local teams will travel in the first round with No. 18 Destrehan (13-6-1) headed to No. 15 Dutchtown while No. 19 Northshore (9-7-2) will travel to 14th-seeded New Iberia.
Three-time defending state champion and No. 2 Ben Franklin (17-1-1) leads the local seeds in Division II. No. 4 Lakeshore (12-6-6) and No. 7 East Jefferson (15-3-0) also earned first-round byes.
Ben Franklin coach Jose Ferrand said earning the second seed is an honor.
“It’s a testament to the senior class, who came in here and brought a different level of quality to the program,” Ferrand said. “Being the top seed helps, especially in the later rounds because you don’t want to play in a hostile environment if you can avoid it. It is definitely a plus to be at home in the playoffs.”
There are no New Orleans-area schools hosting in the first round, but there are four local squads looking to pull upsets. No. 19 Academy of Our Lady (10-6-4) leads that group and will travel to 14th-seeded Beau Chene. No. 20 De La Salle (8-5-4) will visit 13th seed Sam Houston.
No. 21 Helen Cox (8-7-3) travels to No. 12 Ruston while No. 10 Central Lafourche will host No. 23 Cabrini (6-11-5).
Second-seeded Sacred Heart (12-4-2) is the only New Orleans-area squad to earn a first-round bye in Division III, but a pair of local teams will host first-round matches. No. 9 Ursuline (10-6-3) just missed out on a bye but will host No. 24 Minden. No. 15 Lusher (6-10-3) will host No. 18 Belle Chasse (9-9-0) in one of only two first round matches featuring two local squads. No. 20 Pearl River (6-9-1) will travel to No. 13 Parkview Baptist.
Sacred Heart coach Tooraj Badie said earning the No. 2 seed was important.
“We have a pretty good record at home and playing on turf, so we’re excited to be at home,” Badie said. “Travel is always a disadvantage. It’s so much nicer to be home and sleep in your own bed and play on fields that you know. We’ve been playing well lately so hopefully that continues. At this point in the season, it is all mental. All we need to do is put together 80 quality minutes, and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
This state’s smallest division is loaded with New Orleans area schools — a total of 10 to be exact. Second seed and defending state runner-up Pope John Paul II (13-4-1) leads four local teams with first round byes. No. 3 Hannan (15-4-2), No. 5 Newman (12-6-2) and No. 6 Country Day (9-8-4) also received byes.
Pope John Paul II coach J.B. Mahoney said home-field advantage can be a difference-maker.
“I definitely like being at home for the playoffs,” Mahoney said. “Being at home came make a real difference especially as you get deeper in the playoffs, so it’ll be an advantage for us. We’re really looking forward to the postseason because we have a good mix of young and older players, and it’s been fun to watch the girls mesh together. We feel pretty confident right now.”
A trio of local schools will host first round playoff matches highlighted by No. 9 Northlake (11-10-2) hosting No. 24 St. Martin’s (5-9-2). No. 10 Riverside (12-3-3) welcomes 23rd-seeded Catholic-Pointe Coupee while No. 11 McGehee (12-7-1) will host No. 22 Sterlington.
A pair of local schools will look to pull first round upsets as No. 19 Haynes (8-11-3) travels to 14th-seeded Opelousas Catholic. No. 20 St. Charles (7-12-2) will make the long trip to 13th-seeded Evangel.