There will be no time for fun and games for Iowa and Iota as the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s state volleyball tournament tips off Thursday at the Cajundome in Lafayette.
Both teams compete in Division III and are on opposite sides of the bracket, meaning the district rivals could meet for the championship.
“We are going in to win,” Iowa head coach Grant Anderson said. “It ain’t a vacation for us. It is a business trip.”
No. 7 Iowa (19-18) will face No. 2 E.D. White (21-13) in the quarterfinals at 4:20 p.m. Thursday, while No. 5 Iota (23-18) takes on No. 4 St. Michael the Archangel (22-8) at 8 p.m. The semifinals will be Friday followed by the finals on Saturday.
Iowa is making its second trip to the state tournament in three seasons. The Yellow Jackets have a handful of players from the 2019 team: Ana Alexander, Bentley Richard, Maddie Yongbloed, Ella Arabie and Kamryn Howard, but made some changes, such as moving Alexander from libero to setter.
“Each year is totally different,” Anderson said. “It took us a while to find the right combination of people, whether it be injuries or working people in different positions. We finally found the right combination of chemistry and they started to click.”
Iowa’s opponent is a fixture at the state tournament. The Cardinals were a semifinalist last year and runners-up in 2018 and 2019.
“They are one of the blue bloods of Division III for sure,” Anderson said. “They have been to the state tournament something like 19 of the last 20 years.
“We are going to have our work cut out for us. It is going to be a challenge. But with the amount of heart the girls play with, they have not backed down from a challenge yet this season. We just have to play to our identity. We are just going to try to play with more heart, not let the ball hit the ground and focus on our defensive mechanics and positioning.”
Led by seniors Leah Hebert, Charly Sensat, Annsley Gatte and Ella Jabusch, Iota is making its first quarterfinal appearance since 2016.
“I remember wrapping up tryouts last May and thinking to myself, there is just something special about this group,” Iota head coach Meredith Hebert said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the season that this team would be playing in the LHSAA state tournament in November, and here we are.
“Through patience, position adjustments, tough competition in our schedule, and the leadership of my seniors, is how we prepared for this moment.”
Like E.D. White, St. Michael’s is a state tournament regular with six consecutive appearances.
“St. Michael’s is a solid, well-coached team,” Hebert said. “They have some tall girls and strong hitters.
“I think to be able to beat a team like them we have to maintain our composure and play our game. We will have to keep the energy high while attacking on offense with confidence and being scrappy as we know how on defense. We have worked hard and played some really tough teams this year, and we are ready as we can be.”