Volleyball at the high school level is still relatively new in Bossier Parish. Airline got things started in 2014 and Haughton followed a year later.
The sport, long popular in South Louisiana, has since seen significant growth locally.
Parkway started competing in 2017 and Benton first fielded a team in 2018.
The 2021 season gets underway Monday with Haughton hosting Airline in a non-district match.
Airline hosts Parkway in a District 1, Division I opener Tuesday. Benton opens its season against defending District 1-I champion Natchitoches Central at home Tuesday.
Success at the statewide level has been a challenge but there has been progress. And parish teams have certainly had a big impact in North Louisiana.
Airline has been a consistent winner under head coach Regina Digilormo. The Lady Vikings went 16-6 last season and have made the Division I playoffs five straight years, earning first-round home games the last three.
Digilormo lost eight seniors that contributed to the team’s success for multiple seasons. But a solid core group returns led by senior middle Jacqueline Deville, an honorable mention All-District selection last season, and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Sicily Fontaine, the district’s 2020 Freshman of the Year.
Senior libero/defensive specialist Makayla Casaras and senior rightside hitter Emma Grace Pittman also return.
“After graduating eight seniors, our team this year will be a new group of motivated players looking to step up and take on the varsity role, ” Digilormo said in an email message.
Haughton is looking to win its fifth straight District 1-II championship under head coach Justin Ginn. The Lady Bucs will take a 32-match district winning streak into the season.
Last year, the Lady Bucs finished 12-8 and made school history by hosting a playoff game and winning one for the first time.
However, four of the players who were responsible for much of that success have graduated.
“We’ll need some underclassmen to step up to fill some big shoes,” Ginn said in an email message. “We have a few younger players who will get lots of opportunities to make an impact. I think we have a good core group of girls who are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Senior setter/libero Averi Phillips, a second-team All-District selection last season, is back. Also returning are senior libero/outside hitter Kaely Bettisworth, junior middle Sara White and junior outside hitter Ariana Mathews.
Senior Brooklynn Bockhaus has returned to the team after not playing last year to focus on softball. Bockhaus was the Outstanding Player on the 2021 All-Parish team.
White was also a first-team All-Parish softball player last season.
“She will be a force for us this season in the middle,” Ginn said. “She’s the perfect mixture of size and athleticism.”
Bettisworth is a two-year starter.
“She is a really good defender who covers lots of ground,” Ginn said. “She will play libero for us and will move over to outside hitter when we need her to.”
Mathews is another two-sport standout.
“Everyone needs an Ariana Mathews on their team,” Ginn said. “She isn’t the biggest outside hitter that we have, but she provides us with plenty of hitting and serving ability. She’s a competitor. She always finds a way to get the job done.”
Haughton and the other District 1-II teams are scheduled to play 14 district matches this season instead of the usual 10 with the addition of Neville and Ouachita Parish. Both recently started programs.
Benton finished 9-7 last season and made the playoffs for the first time.
Senior outside hitter Daly Nagot, a second-team All-District 1-I selection last season, leads the Lady Tigers returning players.
Also back are senior setter Kaitlyn Masters and senior middle hitter Andie Taylor, both honorable mention All-District last year.
Parkway is coming off a 5-10 season that included a five-set victory over Airline. The Lady Panthers had to cancel seven games because of COVID-19-related issues.
Senior middle Harley Pierce, honorable mention All-District last season, returns. She will serve as the team’s captain, according to Parkway’s website.
Maya Jackson, who is also a soccer and track standout, is the co-captain.