BRADEN RIVER — Their pieces might be different.
But their mentality is still the same.
And for the second year in a row, the Braden River volleyball team is once again perfect.
On Oct. 14, the Lady Pirates clinched the No. 1 seed in Class 4A-District 10 with a 3-0 victory over Dixie Hollins. Braden River defeated the Lady Rebels 25-7, 25-21 and 25-6 to improve their record to 20-2 and 6-0 in the district.
“Last year, there were a lot more senior starters, and this year it’s evenly mixed; but I think we’re just as competitive as we were last year,” senior libero Kelley Shiels said. “I think that’s a good (thing).”
Coach Steven Haugh agreed.
“When this team is happy and focused and working hard, they’re very strong,” he said.
Last season, the Lady Pirates relied heavily on setter Regina Aluise and outside hitter Lauren Powell, who led the team in kills. Now, after losing Aluise and Powell to graduation, Braden River has placed even more of an emphasis on playing together as a team.
“This year’s team is really team-driven,” Haugh said. “Everybody contributes. Although Brittany (Jaco) is usually our kill leader — everybody is involved all the time. And actually, I think we’re more of a team this year than we were last year.”
This season, Braden River benefited from great play from Shiels, who holds the school record for digs, and fellow senior captain Kaleigh Jaco. Jaco has been instrumental in helping prepare the Lady Pirates for each and every match.
“She’s our emotional leader,” Haugh said of Jaco. “She gets us fired up and does everything behind the scenes. She’s the heart and soul of our team. She’s probably (whom) I would rely on the most.”
Braden River got off to a fast start and took a commanding lead thanks in part to a strong defensive effort and the solid serving of Brittany Jaco and senior Lindsay Blake.
But in Game 2, the Lady Pirates didn’t play up to their standards, as the Lady Rebels strung together eight straight points to pull within a point of Braden River before the Lady Pirates scored the final three points to close out the game.
“None of us wanted to go to four games, so that was kind of motivating us,” Shiels said. “(Coach Haugh) just said that we needed to pull together and bring it back in the third one and (work) harder.”
The Lady Pirates will close out the regular season at 7 p.m., tonight versus Sarasota before preparing for the district tournament, which begins Oct. 25.
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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