Louise McGehee went into the championship round of the seventh annual South Louisiana Volleyball Invitational Tournament as the fifth seed, but the Hawks knocked off Ben Franklin (fourth seed), Barbe (first seed), and defending champion University High (2nd seed) to claim the tournament title.

The championship rounds followed two days of pool play at three sites in Baton Rouge.

McGehee defeated Barbe 25-22 and 29-27 and U-High got past Lakeshore 25-18 and 25-11 in the semifinals to set up the championship between the longtime rivals.

The final match went three sets, with McGehee taking the first 25-19, U-High coming back to win the second 25-21, and McGehee claiming the third set 17-15.

“That (knocking off higher seeds) shows that this team has heart,” McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn said. “We still have work to do, but it was two quality teams going at it, playing outstanding defense-they were just great all around.”

Taylor Ducros was named tournament MVP and Julia Felix was also named to the all-tournament team, but Whitfield-Dunn spread the credit around for her team’s play.

“I can’t really single out any one player,” she said. “We practice and play as a team. My freshman Maddy Tillery played well, and so did my eighth grader Jaida Felix.”

The Hawks had little trouble with the Cubs in the first set, jumping to an 8-4 lead, stretching it to 16-8 and cruising to a 25-19 win.

“It’s a fair assessment that we were a little unsettled in the first set,” U-High coach Bonita Johnson said. “I think it was probably a little bit of nerves. I was proud of the way we came back.

“The girls fought hard, the energy was there, and it was a quality match against a great team.”

U-High got a boost midway through the second set with a 6-2 run. A strong kill and an ace by Lindsay Flory and a key block by Destiny Ephrom led the rally.

The Hawks fought by to tie the score at 17, but another 8-3 run put the set away for the Cubs, with Flory and Ephrom registering kills for the final two points.

Flory led U-High with 15 kills and nine assists. Ephrom added nine kills, and Terri Drake had 12 assists and 15 digs.

McGehee never trailed in the third and deciding set, but U-High fought off two match points to tie the score at 14. The teams then traded points before Tylar Beckham and Jaida Felix finished with two straight kills.

Julia Felix had eight kills and Beckham seven for the Hawks. Maddy Tiller had 15 assists, and Ducros had 13 digs.

The tournament, co-hosted by Woodlawn and Broadmoor High schools, attracted 35 teams from across the state.

Broadmoor coach Everett Odom was impressed with the quality of play for an early season tournament.

“Pool play was very exciting and competitive, as several teams went undefeated and some were thrown into three-way ties for first place. The undefeated teams and pool champs were University, Barbe, Ben Franklin, Sam Houston and McGehee. Fighting off three-way ties and earning a spot into the single elimination bracket were Dutchtown and Lakeshore,” he said.