That’s the only way to describe the scene Saturday evening at Borgia’s Ray DeGreeff Memorial Gymnasium as the Borgia volleyball Lady Knights secured their first state tournament berth since 2010 and 17th in school history.
Borgia (30-3-1) rallied for a 25-18, 21-25, 25-17 victory over rival St. Dominic (26-6) in the Class 3 quarterfinal round to advance to the state tournament in Cape Girardeau Friday and Saturday.
“It’s a great feeling,” Borgia Head Coach Brad Bruns said. “The girls played amazing today. We had two incredibly tough matches today and the girls were able to push to the very end and get the job done. We’re proud and excited for them. This has been a couple of years coming. The seniors have great leadership. We’re just trying to push ahead and take care of business at state.”
Senior Sarah Geatley attacked the ball in the middle and put down the match-winning kill. The team rushed off the bench to join the six on the floor.
“I wanted to win,” Geatley said. “I knew we could do it. I knew someone had to step up and just take the leadership. I just felt like I had to do it.”
Bruns said Geatley showed tremendous leadership down the stretch.
“I have never seen anyone get so fired up like Sarah Geatley,” Bruns said. “She gave so much positive energy during that game. She was so fired up that everyone else just fed off of it. It became a big cycle and that’s when we started pushing ahead.”
Overall, Bruns credited the four seniors, Geatley, Janie Arand, Clara Blatt and Erin Hillerman for leading the team to victory.
“Senior leadership was big today,” Bruns said. “Janie, Clara, Sarah and Erin stepped up. This could have been their last game and they weren’t ready to call it quits. I give them all kudos because they worked hard today and got the job done.”
Borgia’s large student crowd also played a role. Many of the students came early and tailgated. Many were wearing body paint.
“I’ve got to give a big shout out to the fans,” Bruns said. “They were tremendous.”
The student fans spilled out of the stands at the conclusion of the quarterfinal match and mobbed the players on the floor.
After Borgia vanquished Villa Duchesne, it had to face Archdiocesan Athletic Association Large Division rival St. Dominic for the right to advance to state.
“We knew St. Dominic wasn’t just going to back down,” Janie Arand said. “We knew we had to play aggressive and just focus on what we can do.”
Both teams showed tremendous success during the season. St. Dominic had finished higher than Borgia in the Borgia Tournament (second to third) although the teams didn’t meet that day.
During league play, Borgia recorded two sweeps.
However, Brandy Moos’ Lady Crusaders had gotten closer and closer to Borgia in each of the meetings.
St. Dominic opened the day by sweeping another AAA school, Duchesne, in the sectional round, 25-20, 25-12.
In the first game of the quarterfinals, Borgia was able to emerge with the win.
“That first game was a great game,” Bruns said. “It was point for point most of the way and we were able to sneak away for the win.”
Borgia jumped out with a Jordan Kriete kill and led 4-2 before St. Dominic rallied to tie it on an ace by Dana Kramer.
St. Dominic moved to a 12-8 lead before Borgia came back to take the lead once again.
The Lady Knights started to power away after St. Dominic cut it to 14-13. Following a service error, Borgia worked for one point at a time and held a 21-15 lead before St. Dominic made a late rally. Borgia won 25-18.
“In the second game, if you’re up, it’s important to go right back at them and fire again,” Bruns said.
Borgia got the start Bruns wanted, taking a 3-0 advantage. But St. Dominic fought back.
“We ended up having a couple of mental errors and they were able to go on a run on us,” Bruns said. “They started to get hope and see the light at the end of the tunnel and momentum quickly switched.”
The last run came after the teams were tied at 20-20. St. Dominic’s Carlie Combs put the Lady Crusaders on top with a kill. Shelby Mueller knocked one off the Borgia block and St. Dominic went on to win, 25-21.
“Between the second and third games, we talked about how we had to relax and not think about it so much,” Borgia sophomore Emma Kriete said. “We know we can beat them. I think the second game was mental. It got into our heads. So, the third game, we just came out and played it point by point.”
Geatley said she had no doubts.
“I knew deep down we were still going to win,” Geatley said. “I could feel it. It still was scary. I felt nervous. I was pretty sure we could pull back.”
Borgia had to dig out of an early hole after St. Dominic scored the first four points.
“This whole year, whenever we got down by a few points, this group always found a way to dig out of a hole,” Bruns said. “We’ve done it time and time again. I guess it’s second nature to them. They focus on one point at a time in digging out of a hole.”
Senior Erin Hillerman slapped a kill off the St. Dominic block to give Borgia its first point. The Lady Knights rallied and tied it at 5-5.
“Momentum switched quickly at the end of the second game and we let it carry into the third game,” Bruns said. “Once we settled down, we got a couple of big kills and we got back on track.”
For the next several points, the two teams played with urgency. Each wanted to earn the right to play for a state title. Neither squad gave an inch and the crowd was loud for both squads.
In this playoff atmosphere, senior Clara Blatt was sent in to serve at 15-15.
“Putting her in the back row gives us help in two dimensions,” Bruns said. “She has an aggressive serve. She’s been doing a great job serving this year. It also gives us better defense on the back row. Even though it’s only for one rotation, that’s a great move by the coaching staff to put her in. She does a fantastic job coming off the bench in a pressure situation. She did great.”
Blatt gave Borgia the lead with her first serve, an ace. Borgia never looked back.
“I just had to concentrate,” Blatt said. “Coach (Martina) Roth called where I should serve to and I tried to hit that location. I missed a couple but I just tried to be consistent with it.”
Borgia was up 17-16 when freshman Audrey Arand blasted a kill and Geatley followed up with another kill.
The Lady Knights continued to add to the lead.
“At point 22 when Audrey was back there serving, I knew we were going to win,” Emma Kriete said. “I could feel it.”
Jordan Kriete recorded the 24th point on a kill.
“We were all tired, but we all have heart so I knew we were going to pull it out,” she said.
Geatley then recorded the match winner, 25-17.
As a team, Borgia hit .302 for the match.
Audrey Arand led Borgia with 10 kills while hitting .364.
The Kriete cousins, Emma and Jordan, each had eight kills.
Geatley recorded seven kills on 10 swings with no errors. Hillerman posted three kills and Janie Arand added one kill.
Janie Arand posted 27 assists while Geatley and Jordan Kriete added one each.
Janie Arand served two aces. Blatt and Emma Kriete each had one ace.
Junior Alivia Brinker and Janie Arand had 11 digs apiece. Junior Molly Arand and Jordan Kriete each had eight digs.
Junior Allie Marquart recorded six digs. Audrey Arand contributed five digs while Emma Kriete had four and Geatley and Hillerman had one dig apiece.
Emma Kriete and Geatley each had three total blocks. Audrey Arand added one block.