EAST MANATEE -- Winning is what matters most in the district volleyball tournament.
A win gets a team through. A loss sends a team home.
So while Braden River coach Matt McElhiney would have preferred to his Pirates play a bit smoother Monday night during a Class 7A-District 11 quarterfinal, he couldn't argue with the result.
The Pirates beat Port Charlotte 3-0 and head to Manatee 7 p.m. tonight for a semifinal match, with the winner heading to Thursday's district championship game and next week's regional tournament.
"We really weren't mentally prepared the best we could have been," said McElhiney, who noted school was closed Monday. "I don't think they were really into the game until after that first game."
The Pirates (17-9) squandered a 5-0 lead in the opener and fell behind 15-13 before engineering a four-point run thanks to a pair of kills from sophomore Sienna Kelley.
Braden River cruised in Game 2 (25-13) and held off Port Charlotte's late rally to close out the match (25-20).
"I think once we started talking, it all started flowing," said senior Courtney McDevitt, who had 11 kills, seven assists and two aces. "We did a really good job of getting ourselves back up when we were down. When the momentum wasn't going, we were talking a lot, and everyone was kind of a leader in their own little way to get us back up."
McDevitt and Demi Shay-Watchorn (41 assists, 12 digs) are the two senior mainstays in Braden River's starting lineup. But underclassmen such as Kelley (19 kills) and junior Madison Jaco (14 kills, three aces) have made the youth movement work out east.
"My seniors do little things you don't necessarily see, and that kind of makes it happen for us," McElhiney said. "It is good to see our sophomores and juniors, they do make a big contribution. Looking forward to next year, I'm hoping some of the stuff from our seniors rubs off on our younger players."
The Pirates now look to the second-seeded Hurricanes, won all five head-to-head contests this season.
"I think the girls will be up for it. They don't back down from big matches," McElhiney said. "They actually play better in big matches. We're going to have to play a complete game.
"(Manatee) is a very good team. They're a complete team, top to bottom. Our girls know they're going to have to bring their best effort."