BRADEN RIVER — Surrounded by her teammates, senior captain Allison Martin walked up to a dry-erase board following the Lady Pirates’ final district game against Osceola, picked up a black marker and wrote three simple letters next to their opponent’s name: W-O-N.
It’s a ritual the Braden River High volleyball team has been doing since its first district game in early September. Following each district game, the team huddles together in the stands while Martin writes the result — all of which have been the same.
At the beginning of the season, coach Steven Haugh wrote each of the Lady Pirates’ district opponents on the board with a special message for his players: Focus on every point in every game you play.
The players took the message to heart, turning it into their motto for the season. Now six games and six wins later, the Lady Pirates, led by Martin and fellow seniors Regina Aluise, Lauren Powell and Rachel Hubbard, are one step closer to their ultimate goal of winning the district title.
On Oct. 8, Braden River played its final district game of the season, defeating Osceola 3-0. With the win, the Lady Pirates clinched the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, capping off an undefeated district season.
Braden River has advanced to the regional tournament each of the past two seasons, earning the school’s first regional tournament victory last season, but the district title has continually eluded the Lady Pirates.
The team is hoping to change that this season. And with a perfect district season, the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye under their belts, the Lady Pirates are in perfect position to capture their first district title.
“This is huge for us because our goal at the beginning of the season was to be undefeated in districts,” Aluise said. “This is our first goal accomplished, so it feels awesome.”
Braden River (13-3, 6-0 Class 4A-District 10) handled Osceola with ease, defeating the Lady Warriors (8-5) 25-14, 25-19 and 25-7.
“Tonight, it was all about winning, and we were going to go from start to finish to complete our goal,” Haugh said. “They’ve been looking forward to this all season, so I’m really happy for them that they made it.
“I think the girls played absolutely fantastic,” he added. “They’ve been prepared all year to really work hard for districts and they came with our motto for the year, which is how to get there: focus on every point in every game you play in and they did that.”
Leading the way for Braden River was junior defensive specialist Kelly Sheils, who fought off an illness to record 17 digs on the night.
“I felt horrible, but my team really helped me get up, feel better and play as well as I did. So I’m really thankful for that,” Sheils said. “I guess I push myself harder when I’m afraid I’m not going to do well.”
Haugh credited Sheils’ performance on the court as the difference for the Lady Pirates this season.
“Kelly Sheils was just fantastic,” he said. “She’s been fantastic all year. Her hustle and her ability to pass the ball has been great all year, and she’s made the difference in most of the wins that we’ve had.”
The Lady Pirates were also led by Powell, junior Kaleigh Jaco and sophomore Brittany Jaco who each finished with seven kills and Martin and freshman Courtney McDevitt finished with four kills apiece while Aluise recorded 26 assists on the night.
“It’s great when we’re able to spread the ball around like that,” Haugh said. “It really helps us do well.”
Braden River returns to action at 7 p.m. tonight at Palmetto. The Lady Pirates defeated the the Lady Tigers 25-11, 25-15 and 25-10 in their district meeting Sept. 29.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].