Advocate staff photo by Robin Fambrough

Dunham volleyball coach Donna Pixley (center) with daughters Hannah, left, and Caylin.

Volleyball is a passion for the women in the Pixley household.

Donna Pixley coached The Dunham School to a school record 34 wins against six losses so far this season. The Division V Tigers notched wins against playoff teams from high divisions, including Dutchtown, Dominican, Lakeshore, Ponchatoula and Morgan City.

Junior outside hitter Hannah Pixley and eighth-grader Caylin Pixley, who rotates in on the back row, are part of family atmosphere at Dunham. The family affair also includes proud dad and husband Jonathan Pixley, the Tigers' boys basketball coach.

No. 5 Dunham battles No. 4 Lafayette Christian (39-5) in a Division V quarterfinal at 12:40 p.m. Thursday as the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA State Volleyball tournament begins in the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner. The winner will likely face two-time defending state champion and No. 1 seed Country Day in the semifinals.

Hannah Pixley, who is 5-foot-7, began playing varsity volleyball in the seventh grade. She was on Dunham teams that fell in the quarterfinals in 2014 and 2016. Caylin Pixley is 5-1 and has made her mark on the varsity this season as a setter.

Hannah Pixley has 1,056 career digs and 919 kills. This season she has 61 aces, 316 kills and 365 digs. Caylin Pixley has 69 aces, 362 assists and 66 digs.

“I have a good feeling about Thursday,” Hannah Pixley said. “We have some really good hitters. Beating (Division I) Dutchtown really gave us confidence. We’re a little nervous but excited about this opportunity. The team has improved a lot this season.”

Hannah Pixley was an All-Metro selection as a freshman. Her game has evolved, and Donna Pixley said she projects as a libero on the college level.

“My defense has improved on the back row,” Hannah Pixley said. “I just want to get the ball up even if I have to sacrifice my body. Our first contact is the best thing we have going as a team.”

“Hannah understands the game and reads and anticipates well,” said Donna Pixley, who had over 4,000 assists as setter at Samford. “She’s very competitive like I am. Everything clicked this season. I can look at her, and she’ll know what we want to run. Caylin has fit in great with the team. Sometimes her sister is a little rough on her. But we don’t baby her on the team.”

Dunham often runs a 6-2 offense with two setters. Junior Taylor Hurst (99 aces, 591 assists, 148 kills) is the other setter. Middle Janai Stevens (277 kills, 128 blocks, 78 aces), a 5-10 junior, is another key player.

Caylin Pixley said she is a different player than her sister. “Early in the season I felt a big expectation to be exactly like Hannah,” she said. “I’m not as tall as her and play a different role. Once I figured that out, I was able to play more relaxed. Serving is one of my strengths. It’s pretty cool playing for my mom and with my sister.”

Dunham’s 2017 team finished 18-18 and lost two seniors to graduation. The Tigers have four club volleyball players.

“In some ways this team has exceeded expectations,” Donna Pixley said. “We have good chemistry, and the team cares less about who gets the credit.”

When Hannah Pixley was recently presented a commemorative ball after her 1,000th dig, she said she didn’t want a picture of herself and instead wanted a picture with the team.

“That was a proud-mom-moment for me,” Donna Pixley said.