No. 1-seeded Mayer Lutheran has cruised through the postseason, not losing a set along the way. Coach Joelle Grimsley, while giving thanks to the volleyball gods, knew this was too good to be true. A tight five-set match had to happen sometime.
It did Friday, and the Crusaders (28-6) survived, defeating Heritage Christian 25-19, 22-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-4 to advance to the Class 1A championship game for the first time since 1982.
Good thing her players were calm and confident heading into that fifth and deciding set, because Grimsley admitted she was a wreck.
"I was just saying 'Stay calm' because that's our game," junior setter Madison Hucky said. "We just wanted to come out and start strong."
Said Grimsley: "They were calm. I had the nerves."
It's a measure of her team that her players were able to put the loss in the fourth set behind them, she said.
"That's a tough thing to do when you lose and they have all the momentum," Grmisley said. "We knew we had to start strong and get some of the momentum back on our court."
They did, winning the fifth set 15-4.
"I wanted to cry," junior Madi Beck said. "I still can't believe we're playing for a state championship."
Heritage Christian, which won a five-set match to reach the semifinals, fell to 26-11.
Caledonia 3, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 2: It took 35 matches, all the way to the semifinals of the state tournament, for Caledonia (30-5) to play to a fifth set. When it finally happened, the Warriors came out on top with a 20-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-21, 16-14 victory over No. 2 seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.
The third-seeded Warriors overcame a 2-1 set deficit to put themselves back in the championship match for the first time since they finished as runner-up in the Class 2A tournament in 2012.
"If they're down, they have a lot of confidence to come back," Caledonia coach Scott Koepke said.
Junior Madisyn Heaney had the kill on set point to force a fifth set. Then the Warriors kept calm throughout the fourth set.
"We just said, we're going to go into five," senior Mariah Schroeder said.
It was close until the final points of the match. The Warriors won it after a shot by the Panthers (29-8) sailed long.
Panthers coach Katie Gervais acknowledged that both teams didn't let up.
"I definitely think we didn't lose the match," Gervais said. "I think they won the match. There's a big difference."