There it was staring the Rowland Hall-St. Mark's volleyball team right in the face - another loss to heated rival Manti.
The Winged Lions had just dropped the first game of their critical Region 12 meeting with the Templars and recent history wasn't on their side.Second-ranked Rowland Hall had already fallen twice to fourth-ranked Manti in a preseason tournament, but a loss this time would mean much more, such as an end to a perfect region season, a home loss, and a fall into a three-way tie for the region lead.
The Winged Lions made sure those possibilities didn't happen though, as they rallied to post a 6-15, 15-10, 15-12 victory over the Templars Thursday. The win improved Rowland Hall to 7-0 in region play and kept it atop the region standings, one game ahead of second-place Juab.
"They are a never-say-die team," Rowland Hall head coach Kendra Tomsic said of her players. "They've been written off more than once in matches this year and they come back."
Tomsic credited this come-from-behind win to a stronger showing at the net, and a little less thinking on her players' part.
"I think we started overthinking in the first game . . . wondering where balls were going to go if hit at this angle or that angle," said Tomsic. "I told them after that first game to stop thinking so hard and go play."
Manti made the Winged Lions look like cubs in the first game, erasing an early 2-0 deficit with an 11-2 run that included a number of Rowland Hall hitting errors. Behind the hitting of Sabrina Bolli and Takesha Cox, the Templars rallied from a 5-0 deficit in the second game to tie it at 8-all before Rowland Hall took control.
Sara Watchorn served up a pair of aces and kills by Jenny Rasmusson and Meghan Barker helped the Winged Lions finish with a 7-2 spurt that tied the match at a game apiece.
Rowland Hall fell behind 5-2 in the third game, then used a pair of 4-0 runs to take leads of 6-5 and 10-7. The Templars weren't done though, scoring four-straight points on the serve of Cox to regain the lead at 11-10.
Rasmusson then served up a pair of aces and Julie Stevens had a kill and a block to reclaim a 14-11 lead for the Winged Lions. Manti cut the gap to 14-12, but after a sideout, Barker closed the game and match by recording her eighth kill of the night.
Despite the win, Tomsic still sees room for improvement for her players, and she's happy about it.
"I don't think we're playing as well as we should and I'm glad," she said. "I don't want us peaking yet."
Rasmusson topped Rowland Hall with nine kills for the match, while Stevens had six blocks and Kacie Tachiki recorded 13 assists and five aces.
The loss was a tough one for Manti (5-2), which began the week tied for first before dropping both its matches this week. It also overshadowed the strong performances of Cox and Bolli, who finished with 11 and 10 kills, respectively.