Even after losing the first game, they never panicked.
The Spanish Springs volleyball team was simply cool and relaxed throughout, taking the next three sets to win the school's first state volleyball title.
They beat Green Valley, the defending state champions, 12-25, 25-12, 25-21 and 25-22 on Saturday at Galena for the Division I state championship, completing a remarkable turnaround for the school. The Cougars had never played in the state tournament before and had just one winning record in the school's first 10 years. They went to the North region championships the past two seasons.
"We stay loose. That's our motto, and that's how we play best," Spanish Springs senior Lyndsey Anderson said.
Coach Frank Sandomenico agreed, saying, "We're always relaxed. We're loose all the time. We're a loose group. Loose at practice, loose at games."
Melissa Munley had a match-high 20 kills for the Cougars, but it was a balanced team effort. Rachel Loadholt had 11 and Anderson four. Anderson also dished out 32 assists and had eight digs. Brandi Brucato had nine digs and four aces, and Munley had two aces.
"It's the best feeling in the world. We had to work so hard, since we got into middle school," an elated Loadholt said. "We've been together since seventh grade."
She said after losing the first game, the Cougars regrouped.
"We knew we had to come together a little bit more. We knew we had to work as a team," she said. "Just come together point by point, one point at a time."
Anderson said losing in the North region finals last week to Manogue was added motivation for the Cougars.
"I think it actually helped us," Anderson said. "We wanted to bounce back, and we came out even stronger than we normally would have."
She said the Gators' quick pace to start the game was a little unexpected, but the Cougars adapted.
In the fourth set, Green Valley led 19-17 when Sandomenico called an emphatic timeout. The match-winner was a laser-like smash that Green Valley promptly hit into the stands.
"We realized we have to have fun. It's about having fun. It's no pressure on us to win," Anderson said. "The different attitude helped us."
Green Valley coach Erin Hill said serving was a key factor.
"Spanish Springs played an outstanding match. Hat's off to the state champions," Hill said. "They served very well. It all comes down to passing and serving, and they served very aggressively, very effectively."
The Gators' passing wasn't as sharp after the first game, which took them out of their offensive sets.
"Their whole team had a real nice game. Very few unforced errors," Hill said. "They played very well."
When the Cougars seniors were in the seventh grade, Spanish Springs did not win one game.
For the Gators, Nikki Drost had 14 kills, and Bridgette Dwyer had 10 along with five blocks.
The Cougars were still soaking in their achievement on the court well after it ended, not quite sure what to do next.