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GASTON — After a remarkable turnaround from last year, anything positive Daleville’s volleyball squad could accomplish in the IHSAA state tournament would be a bonus.

The Broncos took the house money they earned with their sectional title and won more in their first-round, five-set regional victory over South Newton at Wes-Del.

Daleville got an opportunity to take down another ranked team in Class 1A No. 3 Lafayette Central Catholic in the final Saturday night.

Although Daleville’s run ended with a three-set defeat to the Knights (25-18, 25-14, 25-12), it did nothing to tarnish the shine the Broncos garnered as they turned their program around.

Daleville (5-15 last year) entered the postseason ranked ninth and finished 24-8. It was the second time a Bronco squad reached the Round of 8 in a state tourney (the 2016 team won the regional and fell in the first round of the semistate).

“I think what they bought into was our seniors leading the way, from the 5 a.m. workouts all the way until now,” second-year Daleville coach Valorie Wells said. “They bought into what our coaches were saying, play together, work hard for it and bring Daleville volleyball back, and that’s what they did.”

The night match, though, was a very tall order Central Catholic (25-9) made sure the Broncos couldn’t fill.

The Knights ran off nine unanswered points in the first set and led 16-5, and then broke open a tight middle set that saw Daleville come to within 10-9.

Central Catholic beat the Broncos with potent and well-placed swings, while Daleville made relatively few offensive errors.

“(The Knights) were really clean, and they were putting up balls they were using that we usually don’t use, so it was hard for us to adjust,” Wells said. “But I just reminded (our team) to play together and do the best we can.”

Daleville got to the final by outlasting sixth-ranked South Newton 22-25, 25-20, 18-25, 25-23, 15-7.

Seniors Audrey Voss and Julia Andreassa both came up with 20 kills, and freshman Trishell Johnson had eight blocks. Junior Emilee Finley made 39 assists and served four aces.

“We always talk about our high energy that we want to bring all the time,” said Wells. “That’s Daleville volleyball, and that’s how we see it, keeping that energy all the time.”

It was the Broncos’ second win over a ranked foe in the tournament. They took out No. 2 Wes-Del in a Sectional 55 semifinal.

The Broncos added Brazilian exchange student Andreassa and Wes-Del transfer Amarah McPhaul this year, and they weren’t content with being relevant again in the tough Delaware County volleyball environment.

“Our ultimate goal was state, and I wrote ‘state’ on the board the first time we met, back in March,” Wells said. “We put goals as to how we were going to get there, and we put those goals into work every day, every practice, every match. That’s how they bought into the program.”

Daleville will also lose seniors Emi Isom and Sydney Nixon but will build around five juniors from this year as well as Johnson and perhaps others from the JV or elsewhere.

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