Tylar Beckham, McGehee volleyball player, on playing Sacred Heart for the third time this season: 'They know us, and we know them. So we have to prepare ourselves, and we can’t underestimate them.'

Tylar Beckham has mixed emotions about this week.

On one hand, the Louise S. McGehee School senior was thrilled to sign with the Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday during the NCAA’s fall signing period.

And she’s pumped about leading her team Thursday when the LHSAA Volleyball State Tournament begins at the Pontchartrain Center.

But then, it hits her that her high school career will close soon.

Maybe Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Maybe Friday in the semifinals.

Or perhaps Saturday after the championship round.

“It is very bitter sweet for me as well as for Teja Williams, the other senior on the team,” Beckham said. “We are happy and sad at the same time because we have been through so much.”

Beckham, a 6-foot middle blocker, is hoping to help the Hawks get past Thursday’s quarterfinal match against Sacred Heart. It would be her first time past the quarterfinals after losing in that round as a sophomore and a junior. McGehee lost in the bidistrict round during Beckham’s freshman season.

Thursday’s match will be the third meeting of the season between McGehee and Sacred Heart, with McGehee winning the previous two against its district opponent.

“They know us, and we know them,” Beckham said. “So we have to prepare ourselves, and we can’t underestimate them.”

McGehee coach Val Whitfield-Dunn knows it won’t be easy.

“Our district is just so tough,” Whitfield-Dunn said. “We have battled with them time after time. It will be a very good match.”

McGehee, Sacred Heart and Newman are all on the same side of the bracket in the Division IV playoffs. Newman plays John Curtis in another quarterfinal Thursday. In the top half of the bracket, top-seeded Pope John Paul II plays Episcopal and Hannan plays University High.

McGehee, the No. 2 seed, sports a lofty 38-4 record. But the Hawks coach knows none of that matters Thursday as the school begins its quest for its sixth state title and first since 2008.

“We always try to have proper preparation,” said Whitfield-Dunn, who has won three state titles. “They are prepared and know the game plan and know they have to bring it. Everybody is equally good now. So we just have to come out and play to our abilities.”

Beckham would like nothing more than to have three more matches with her teammates before heading off to play for the Ragin’ Cajuns next season. She said it was a fairly easy decision choosing a school.

“I really loved the school,” she said. “My dad went there. And the coach is really nice and I just felt like it was a really great fit for me. I am excited to sign the day before (the state tournament). I am hoping all of this is like a big push of momentum for the whole team.”

Beckham’s play could go a long way in determining if the Hawks end their quarterfinals drought.

“Tylar has worked hard to become the player she is today,” said Whitfield-Dunn. “She has a lot of athletic ability and potential to be an excellent player at the next level. She still has work to do. But that’s why she is good because she has done the things she needed to do.

“She has put in the time on and off the court. … I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach Tylar over the years. She has an unlimited amount of potential and will do exceedingly and abundantly well at the collegiate level.

“This year Tylar’s team leadership flourished, and her focus as a team player was evident.”