There wasn't a lot of room at the O'Gorman gym bleachers on Tuesday night and there was even less on the scoreboard.
The Knights were able to create a little wiggle room in a 25-17 first game win against Roosevelt during the District 1AA volleyball title match, but after that, suspense defined the action. Eventually, so did O'Gorman in a wild 25-17, 23-25, 29-27, 15-13 win over the Riders played out before a raucous bipartisan crowd.
The victory sends the Knights to the state tournament. The Riders get a second chance on Friday night against Yankton.
The win-or-play-Yankton conditions were a consistent presence nearly from start to finish.
"It was so intense," said O'Gorman junior Lauren Witte, who had 13 kills and a pair of ace serves.
"They are such a good team - we had to work so hard for this. We just could not quit. You have to try to stay comfortable in something like that otherwise you're not going to play very well. We stayed pretty calm the whole way and we pulled it through." "They are such a good team - we had to work so hard for this. We just could not quit. You have to try to stay comfortable in something like that otherwise you're not going to play very well. We stayed pretty calm the whole way and we pulled it through."
"Calm" might have been a little bit of an overstatement in the last game, though maybe the Knights had a little more of it than Roosevelt at that point. "Calm" might have been a little bit of an overstatement in the last game, though maybe the Knights had a little more of it than Roosevelt at that point.
The Riders, with strong work up front from Maggie DeJong, Ashley Beaner and Tagyn Larson, asserted themselves to even the contest at 2-2 and led 12-10 in the deciding game when O'Gorman's Taryn Kloth, a 6-foot sophomore who led the Knights with 15 kills, answered with a spike to make it 12-11.
The next point involved bodies flying on both sides of the net for a very long and very loud length of time.
After several well-choreographed attacks failed from both teams, O'Gorman's Allie Vognild hit a ball over the net with her back to the Riders, finding wood in the middle of the court. Crazy, but somehow not out of place.
"You look at your kids in a game like that and you tell them you have to give everything until the final point," said O'Gorman coach Julie Kolbeck.
"You have to be able to walk in that locker room after the game and tell your teammates 'I couldn't give anything more.' I think they did that. I kept telling them during the time out that they'll have time to rest after this is over. Play until the bitter end."
The Riders, who split with the Knights during the regular season, suffered through 12 bad serves. Those sorts of problems tend to show up in five-game matches.
"It was the difference," Roosevelt coach Holly Lynch said. "We just didn't come out with the fire tonight that we needed to. They attacked and they had some kills but we had some unforced errors on serves - just too many mental mistakes tonight."
There were reasons to retain some optimism for the Riders, who got 24 kills from DeJong and 17 from Beaner. Roosevelt defeated Yankton 3-0 during the regular season and - after losing a fifth game to O'Gorman last year - went on to finish second in the state.
It was a consolation, but not enough in the minutes after a two-point fifth-game loss.
"Anytime you have to play regions, it's tricky because that's your last chance," Lynch said. "Volleyball is so much about chemistry and about the team that shows up on match night. We have to come out with fire on Friday."