Success has been a long time coming for the Delaware Hayes girls volleyball team.
The Pacers continued their turn-around year with a 26-24, 20-25, 25-15, 25-16 victory at Hilliard Bradley Wednesday night in the second round of the Division I volleyball tournament.
Delaware (11-12), which already had more wins than in the previous three years combined, picked up its first tournament win since 2011 and punched its ticket to the district semifinal round for the first time since 2004.
“My goal when I was looking at the draw at the meeting was to get us past that second (round),” Pacers coach Liz Kaylor-Palmer said.
Delaware and Bradley, both a part of the OCC-Cardinal Division, split in the regular season with the Pacers winning in Hilliard.
“Bradley is a tough team,” Kaylor-Palmer said. “We really talked at practice this week about taking advantage of the times when they’re off and really digging in and getting through the times when they’re on. They were missing a key player in Donna Brown – a great middle – and that helped us.”
The 23rd-seeded Pacers got strong performances out of junior Lauryn Rocassin and freshman Hadlee Bruns, particularly in the third set.
Lauryn Rocassin finished with 21 kills, 17 assists and 11 digs and Bruns finished with 10 kills and 2.5 blocks for the Pacers.
“Lauryn’s always one of our key players, but (Wednesday night), I think she made only one error,” Kaylor-Palmer said. “She really had the right clarity … the right focus to make it happen. She has a lot of weight on her shoulders, knowing that she’s our go-to (player).”
Bruns and Lauryn Rocassin combined for five kills as Delaware scored the final six points to win the go-ahead third set convincingly.
“(Bruns has) stepped up tremendously,” Kaylor-Palmer said. “She is the type of kid that you don’t look at and think is a middle because of her height, but because of her energy and her athleticism she makes it happen.”
Lauryn Rocassin had a couple of kills early in the final set as the Pacers built a 14-6 lead. Emily Gray had one of her three kills during the stretch.
“We came in with a very specific game-plan. We watched them Monday night against Groveport … our game plan was ready and the girls did an excellent job of executing it,” Kaylor-Palmer said.
Bradley (10-13), the 21st-seed, was solid on the serve all night with 10 aces as a team, including one by Megan Fleshman that pulled the Jaguars within 18-14.
The Pacers took advantage of four straight Bradley errors and violations to gain control before Bruns and Isis Parsons closed out the win with back-to-back kills.
Delaware found itself down 21-17 in the opening set thanks to kills by Abbey White and Riley Speelman sandwiched around an ace by Emily Ewen.
But kills by Bruns and Elisha Lowery and an ace by Rebecca Rocassin helped Delaware stage the comeback, giving the Pacers their first victory in the tournament since 2011.
Rebecca Rocassin led the Pacers with 22 assists to go along with 11 digs. Audrey Hannahs had a team-high 21 digs.
Aiden Johnson had a pair of aces in the second set as part of a 10-3 run to allow the Jaguars to take control on their way to their only set win.
“We know Bradley is a strong team and that (set) was a wake-up call for us,” Kaylor-Palmer said.
Delaware advances to the district semifinal round and will play top-seeded Dublin Coffman Wednesday night at 6 p.m. at Whitehall-Yearling.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.