OREM - Every team starts the season dreaming of what it would be like to hoist that state championship trophy in November.
But the Sky View Bobcats weren't content to daydream. They devised a plan.
"We knew we had to know in our minds at the beginning of the season that this was our goal," said senior outside hitter Maddie Day after the second-ranked Bobcats defeated defending 4A champion Timpview in a five-set thriller 26-24, 18-25, 25-18, 16-25, 18-16. "We set little goals to lead us to this big goal. Once we accomplished all of those little goals, we knew we could do this (tonight)."
And what the Bobcats did was impressive by any measurement.
They won a Region 5 title without a loss; they swept the top-ranked, undefeated Region 8 champion Salem Hills in the 4A semifinals; and they won a marathon match against the defending 4A champion T-birds Saturday night.
"We swept every match except this one," said Day. "We knew every point counted and every play mattered and that's how we got here."
The fifth and final set was a tug-of-war between two teams that fought desperately to earn that top spot. Two consecutive net serves gave Timpview a 14-12 lead and massive momentum.
Day not only came back with three consecutive kills, she then served the team to the title, just as she'd served them to a win in the first set. Her effort, which included 24 kills, earned her 4A All-Tournament MVP honors.
"Maddie is heart and soul one of the fiercest competitors I've ever coached," said Sky View head coach Malayna Knowles. "There is always a win with her, even if she's a little bit upset with her own play. We talked about that at the beginning of this fifth set, that the way she looked, her body language, her court presence dictated how the team would respond. And even when those two serves were missed, she came bacak and high fived (the players). Then she served us out."
Day had plenty of help from her teammates, who fought back from the brink of losing so often, Knowles was speechless when asked to describe the effort. Junior outside hitter Taylor Duryea earned 21 kills, including putting away the game-winner. Libero Sammy Cox picked up 30 digs, while Tara Goldman was huge in the middle with 24 kills.
Setter Mandi Nield, a senior, finished with an astounding 55 assists in the win.
"These girls have had opportunities during the season, in practice mostly, where they wanted to be finished and we didn't let them be finished," said Knowles. "We made them push past that (fatigue) to the next one. And they respond so well to being asked to push, to give a little bit more."
As disappointed as Timpview was to finish so painfully close to a repeat, head coach Kristen Bailey was proud of how the team performed after coming into the playoffs an unranked, number three seed. "We had to beat two undefeated region champions," said Bailey. "I'm still so proud of my girls, and I love them to death."
She said she told her players to give that fifth set everything they had, and they did that.
"We have four seniors, and I told them, 'You have 15 points left in your high school careers'," she said. "Let's leave it all on the court; let's play like T-birds; let's play with no regrets. I'm so proud of this team."
Setter Jessie Jorgensen led the team with 19 kills and 25 assists, while senior setter Megan Huddleston added 13 kills and 20 assists. Junior outside hitter Lauryn Dela Cruz finished with 12 kills and 25 digs, while Treyland Leauanae, a senior, added 27 digs.
The last time Sky View High School won a volleyball championship was the year Day was born - 1994.
She said she hasn't been able to sleep all week as she dreamed of what reaching the team's ultimate goal would feel like.
"I can't describe the feeling," she said. "This is all I think about, all I've dreamed about. I'm so glad it's a reality."