With the Heritage volleyball team last playing in the elite eight in 2005, the current group of players had never played past the second round.
That all changed Tuesday night.
The Lady Patriots swept Lakeside-DeKalb 25-18, 25-13 and 25-19 in the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament, setting up a Saturday match at Marist against an opponent to be determined.
Heritage (42-8) wrapped up the victory with an impressive Game 3 victory led by Taylor Bailey, one of 10 seniors. With the Lady Patriots ahead 7-3 following a kill by Mikala Flonnoy, Bailey rattled off seven of the next 8 Heritage points to push the lead to 15-8.
The visitors from DeKalb hung around, mostly due to unforced errors by the Area 8-AAAA champion Lady Patriots and an ace by impressive freshman Amy Vansant to make it a 20-15 game. But Bailey and Mikayla Charles had a kill each and a Lakeside error sealed the second-round sweep.
"(Bailey) and Arabia (Umrani) both had a lot of blocks; they had a presence," said Heritage coach David Buddenbaum, who advanced to the third round for the fourth time. "The Lakeside girls couldn't go through them. I tell you what, it's a good group of girls. They enjoy the game a lot."
Heritage opened the night with an efficient 25-18 victory in Game 1. Charles dominated, collecting three of her six kills during an 8-0 run that put the Lady Patriots up 21-8.
"(Charles) played real well," Buddenbaum said.
The Vikings clawed their way back, picking up 10 of the next 13 points, three on kills by Hilary Burdette-Sapp and an ace and kill from Stephanie Field to make it a 24-18 game and force a late Heritage timeout. But Lakeside's error put the No. 3 seed from Area 6-AAAA in an early hole.
The Lady Patriots, who haven't lost since dropping two games to Northgate on Sept. 26, jumped out to an early 10-3 lead in Game 2, thanks to Bailey (three kills) and Rachel Jubran (ace and two assists). Again, Lakeside stayed close, cutting the lead to 13-9 on kills by Sapp, Vansant and Tatiana Galiano. That's when Bailey began to take over, picking up three kills, including a powerful slam off a feed from Jubran that made it 20-12. Four Lakeside errors made it 24-13 and the Patriots went up 2-0 on Flonnoy's kill. With the impressive victory behind them, the Lady Patriots will wait on seeding for this weekend's elite eight.
"All of them played well (and) our defense was incredible today," Buddenbaum said. "It feels like we were in control of the match the whole time. We were focused. Our goal is to win (the state tournament). I was hoping for a big win today and an upset or two across the state."
Kurt Aschermann Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.