Belle Plaine's Mariena Hayden was down to one good leg, but that didn't stop her from scoring the match-winning point in the Class 2A title game.
Hayden, a junior, overcame a left knee injury to hit the final kill, giving Belle Plaine its first state title. The top-seeded Tigers (32-3) overcame an 11-1 deficit in the first set to win the match 25-20, 26-24, 25-20 against Concorida Academy.
"From the first day of practice, I knew that it would be this team that would be the one to win it all," said Hayden, who was on crutches after the game. "We just have been playing together for so long."
Many of Belle Plaine's key players have been together since fourth and fifth grades. Hayden, setter Danielle Taylor and hitters Dakotah Poitra and Kaylee Hentges formed the nucleus of a team that had been to three consecutive state tournaments before this season.
Belle Plaine had never made it to the finals, losing to Marshall in the 2012 and 2014 semifinals.
"It's just so surreal that it actually happened," said Hentges, who recorded 15 kills. "It's just so amazing."
Belle Plaine struggled early in the match, however. Coach Cassie Koch said the team needed time to adjust to a new environment.
"I knew they wouldn't be going down that easy," she said. " We just need to make sure we got back into our serve-receive groove."
They did, going on a 19-3 run midway through the second set. The Tigers took a 6-1 lead in the second set and held on to win it with two kills by Poitra before Hayden's heroics in the third.
"I think we just really learned the kind of momentum you can gain," Koch said. "Today it was pretty sweet to get out in three."
The win helped Belle Plaine avenge a September loss to second-seeded Concordia Academy (27-7), which was looking for its first state title since 1987.
Junior Erin Fallert led the Beacons with 10 kills, and setter Elisabeth Tramm recorded 24 assists.
Taylor recorded a game-high 48 assists, and Hayden had a game-high 17 kills.
"It means everything," Poitra said of winning the title.
Hentges finished her sentence: "So much to end on such a high note."