BRADEN RIVER — The Braden River volleyball team never had hosted a regional quarterfinal — let alone a regional semifinal.
Now the Lady Pirates can check off two more accomplishments on their list of goals, advancing Braden River one step closer to its next achievement — playing for a regional championship.
Braden River didn’t know anything about Ruskin Lennard — its regional quarterfinal opponent — until the Lady Longhorns set foot in the school’s gymnasium.
“This was a kind of surprise team that came out,” Braden River coach Steven Haugh said of Lennard.
But it didn’t take long for the Lady Pirates to adjust to the Lady Longhorns. Braden River jumped on top of Lennard early on and never looked back as the Lady Pirates swept the Lady Longhorns Nov. 4 in a Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal, which only took a little more than an hour to complete.
Braden River (22-6) won the school’s first regional game last fall, and last week, the Lady Pirates were able to continue the tradition, defeating Lennard 25-12, 25-9 and 25-14.
“I think we were really pumped up because this is the first time we’ve ever had a regional game at home,” senior setter Regina Aluise said. “We were a little nervous, but walking in confident, because we didn’t know anything about the team.
“I think we were still on a high after our district win, so coming in at home we were really pumped up and ready for whatever was to come,” she said.
Braden River took a commanding 14-4 lead in Game 1, which was followed up by a 20-7 lead in Game 2. Lennard didn’t hold the lead until Game 3, when the Lady Longhorns rallied to take a 9-8 advantage. But the lead proved to be short-lived as Braden River bounced back, scoring 17 of the game’s final 22 points.
“They were scrappy,” Haugh said. “They dug a lot of balls. They made us hit a bunch at them. They did well for what they have.
“We just do what we do,” he said. “We pass the ball well. We get in our quick offense and that’s what carried us through there.”
Senior Lauren Powell led the way for Braden River with 12 kills. Junior Kaleigh Jaco had 10 kills and five blocks and freshman Courtney McDevitt added five kills. Aluise dished out 33 assists.
“We’ve been really consistent, and all of the hitters have been really consistent, so I feel really comfortable setting anybody that’s on the court,” Aluise said.
With the win, Braden River advanced to Tuesday night’s regional semifinal.
“They’re as prepared as they’re going to be,” Haugh said. “They just have to come with what we always talk about, which is to have a great attitude, try to stay upbeat and happy as they can — it’s all about emotion.”
The Lady Pirates played host to District 10 runner-up St. Pete Lakewood with the winner advancing to the regional championship game Nov. 14.
For results and photos check www.YourObserver.com and pick up the Nov. 19 issue of The East County Observer.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].