WOODS CROSS — Chloe Hirst watched the ball her teammate blocked hit the floor, and she turned away from the net, fell to her knees and clenched her fists.
"It's my senior year," she said after Woods Cross won a five-set thriller against region rival Bountiful 21-25, 25-19, 25-16, 23-25, 16-14. "I've played since I was a freshman, and it was just such a relief to pull out a tough win."
The cross-town rivals battled like unbeaten teams should with the game lasting more than two hours. The Braves won the first set, and the Wildcats took the second. The stands were packed and the fans were loud as Woods Cross easily won the third set.
In the fourth set, however, Bountiful began to find the holes in the Wildcat defense and the teams were never separated by more than four points. Woods Cross led most of the set, but Bountiful stayed in it with tough serving by Brindee Herrick.
Woods Cross led 12-6 in the fifth set when Bountiful began a comeback fueled by Herrick's serves, some smart tips and a couple of key kills by Rachel Cottle.
But Hirst's defense and Lindsey Tagge's hitting kept the Wildcats on top.
Hirst, an outside hitter, finished with 33 kills and 12 digs, while Tagge, the other outside, added 16 digs and nine kills. Setter Bryli Knell earned 56 assists running the offense and 22 digs on defense. Libero Kacie Hirano picked up 23 digs in the hard-fought contest.
"This is our biggest rivalry," said Woods Cross coach Stephanie Jensen. "We're also the most evenly matched, for sure in our region. And we were tied for first."
Both teams were undefeated before Tuesday's showdown, but it was fifth-ranked Woods Cross that gets to keep the unbeaten title.
"Confidence-wise, this will carry us through the next half of region play and into state," said Jensen. "It proves to my girls that they can compete with top-level teams."
Jensen said the battle was the first big test for the young team.
"What I liked most was probably our team chemistry," she said. "Our defense was slacking a little at times."
Hirst agreed with her coach and said even when there are problems, the players work to fix them, not point fingers.
"When we were down, we didn't go our separate ways," said Hirst, a senior who has verbally committed to Idaho State University. "We supported each other no matter what …We have to stop the unforced errors. We will work harder to minimize our own errors."
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