Eight local teams bring plenty of storylines to the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Volleyball tournament that begins Thursday at the Pontchartrain Center.
Their stories and prospects for success at the three-day tournament all differ. There is one thing all the coaches agree on — they did all they could to prepare for this moment and Thursday’s quarterfinals.
“A couple of days ago, my girls started worrying and asking if we should change some things,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “I told them now is the fun time. We’ve done everything we could to get ready. Now you go play.”
The second-seeded Warriors (33-5) help open the three-day tournament at 9 a.m. along with a familiar foe, No. 7 Parkview Baptist (21-12), a District 6 rival. The teams meet for the fourth time this year in their Division III contest.
SMHS is the highest local seed and has a 2-1 edge on PBS this season. St. Joseph’s Academy (23-11), this time around a No. 5 seed, was the Division I runner-up a year ago, while St. Michael was the Division III runner-up.
Two local teams that are not familiar names at the tourney — Dutchtown and Lee look to make some history. Third-seeded Dutchtown (38-7) returns to the tourney for the first time in a decade and faces No. 6 Fontainebleau (30-13) in a Division I quarterfinal set for 6:10 p.m.
Meanwhile, Lee (35-4) makes its Division II tourney debut. The eighth-seeded Patriots face top seed Teurlings Catholic (43-5) at 8 p.m.
“You worry about how your team will handle that atmosphere,” Dutchtown coach Patrick Ricks said. “We played in a tournament at the Pontchartrain a couple of weeks ago and did well. Of course, this will be different, but we have girls who have played on the club level in Dallas and Las Vegas. We believe they are prepared.”
The building process for Lee began a year ago when the Patriots moved into Division II and coach Michelle Haynes sees the tourney berth as an extension of that. “Teurlings is obviously very good,” Haynes said. “For us it comes down to defense and how well we can communicate and pass the ball. Making it this far is a big step for us. We have to focus on what we can do well.”
Dutchtown’s Ricks says defending champion Mt. Carmel (33-1) is the obvious Division I favorite. St. Joseph’s and St. Amant (23-18), the No. 7 seed, play their quarterfinals at 8 p.m. also in the Division I chase. Both sit on the opposite side of the bracket from Dutchtown and Mt. Carmel. Both play tourney regulars. SJA meets fifth-seeded Mandeville (27-11), St. Amant draws No. 2 Chapelle (32-10).
Third-seeded University (39-9) of Division IV and fifth-seeded Dunham (34-6) in Division V face their own intriguing possibilities. UHS meets a tourney newcomer, 11th-seed Haynes Academy, at 10:50 a.m., while Dunham plays fourth-seeded Lafayette Christian (39-5) at 12:40 p.m.
“We’ve been there before. These girls have put in the work,” UHS coach Bonita Johnson said. “Now we see how far we can go.”