Wayzata was a team with three years of pent-up motivation, a talented, veteran group with a burning desire to finally advance past the section final and get to the state tournament.
Champlin Park had Sydney Hilley.
Guess who won?
The Rebels, with Hilley taking over on offense over the last two sets, outlasted the Trojans 17-25, 25-16, 20-25, 25-21, 15-13 to win the Class 3A, Section 6 championship before a raucous crowd Saturday afternoon at Anoka High School.
Hilley, the 2015 Metro Player of the Year, moved from her normal position as setter to outside hitter before this season began, opening up a spot for junior Izzy Ashburn. The two of them have clicked from the outset, but never more so than in the fifth set against the Trojans. Hilley notched seven kills and a block assist and Ashburn had 10 set assists in the final set to close out the back-and-forth match.
"I talked to Syd and to Izzy before the set and told them to take care of the ball but to do what you have to do," Champlin Park coach John Yunker said. "If Syd needs the ball, she needs the ball. When you have a player like that, you have to let her get her swings."
The Wayzata players had talked all season about getting past the section championship game, where they had lost two years in a row. That hunger drove the Trojans to one of their grittiest efforts of the season, playing relentless defense, both at the net and digging out Champlin Park attacks, and attacking fearlessly. They won two of the first three sets and led 18-16 in the fourth set before Hilley dug in and brought the Rebels back.
"Only one team is not going to lose," Wayzata coach Scott Jackson said. "Every team has a time to lose but one, and it was our time to lose today. We didn't quite make it."
Ashburn credited team unity for the Rebels' ability to fight off the Trojans.
"Our team last year was really close, but this team this year is amazing," she said. "We're super tight, we're together every minute and we all feel so close to each other, on and off the court. We support each other the whole time."
For Hilley, the victory gives her one last shot at leading the Rebels to a state title before she graduates early in December and heads off to play for Wisconsin.
Lakeville South 3, Lakeville North 1: Jenny Mosser had 38 kills and 14 digs to lift the Cougars past the Panthers 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, 25-20 in the Class 3A, Section 1 title game. Sydney Case had 55 assists for the Cougars. Elizabeth Juhnke led the Panthers with 18 kills and 14 digs.
Eagan 3, Cretin-Derham Hall 0: The Wildcats rolled past the Raiders 25-11, 25-17, 25-10 to win the Class 3A, Section 3 title. Brie Orr had 11 kills and her sister Kennedi had 24 assists for the Wildcats.