As Hahnville prepares to host Sulphur at 5 p.m. Thursday for a (Nov. 1) first round Division I volleyball playoff matchup, several of the Lady Tigers should be well prepared for the jump in intensity the postseason yields.
Five current Tigers (26-14) played extensively in last year’s first round road victory at Ruston to help lift their team to a second round matchup with St. Joseph, one of the elite teams in the 2017 field. And though Hahnville didn’t win that match, the experience against a top-level playoff contender was nonetheless as valuable as the win at Ruston was.
“I think it all helps tremendously,” said Hahnville head coach Mendi LeBoeuf, who just led her program to its second undefeated district championship in three seasons. “When you have a lineup of basically sophomores (in 2017) who get a taste of playoff success and then a chance to play an exceptional playoff team like St. Joseph … we got to see what the expectations are (for a team like that) and what we have to do to have success in the playoffs and down the line.”
LeBoeuf’s Tigers have won a first round playoff matchup in each of the past two seasons.
Sulphur (17-11), LeBoeuf said, will bring strong play at the net, and added her team will have to be ready to face a team with its back to the wall — as every team in the postseason will be, as it’s win or go home.
“They put up a really good block … and it’s playoff volleyball,” she said. “It’s always going to be a difficult matchup, especially when you’ve got two teams in the middle of the bracket. They’re coming down here and you can be sure we’re going to get their best.”
LeBoeuf said the regular season can be a grind — this will be, for example, Hahnville’s 41st match of the year —and the single elimination format naturally tends to yield peak performance and excitement from the teams involved.
It also helps to have a home crowd behind you. Last season, Hahnville had to travel a long way from home to Ruston to earn a playoff victory. This time around, the Tigers play host.
“It’s great for our people to not have to travel … we think it’s going to be a great atmosphere. Everyone’s very excited,” LeBoeuf said.