There was bickering on the bench, a coach battling nerves and team that just couldn't get on track unless it had a hole to dig itself out of.
All in a day's work for Mayer Lutheran, which overcame all of those potential pitfalls to win its first state title since 1982. The Crusaders defeated Caledonia 20-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-20 on Saturday in the Class 1A championship game.
The Crusaders pulled off the victory by refusing to wilt whenever the taller Warriors would go on a run. Mayer Lutheran trailed in every set, by as many as three points in three of the four.
"We were pretty crabby on the bench," Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. "They were yelling at each other, and I had to tell them to stop being so crabby."
But while their bench was a cacophony of emotion, their on-court demeanor at Xcel Energy Center was cool. They rallied from a 14-10 deficit in the fourth and deciding set to win the match going away.
Credit the heady play of junior outside hitter Madison Hucky for pointing the Crusaders in the right direction. Each time they fell behind, Hucky took the lead, reminding them that composure was the key to coming back. Well, that and a dominant service game. Mayer Lutheran had 13 service aces and forced Caledonia into 13 receiving errors.
"The most important thing is to stay calm," Hucky said. "When we started to go on a run, it was easy to keep it going."
Said Grimsley: "She was calm. I was the nervous one. But I've never seen anything like it. They'd get three or four, then we'd get three or four. We never stopped fighting. We never gave up."
Caledonia outside hitter Mariah Schroeder said her team was frustrated by its inability to put away Mayer Lutheran.
"I was surprised that they kept matching our runs," she said. "Give credit to them. They did a really good job of coming back. We were trying to keep our lead, but there was nothing we could do to stop it."