Volleyball games are won in the backcourt, and South Tahoe's Bailey David showed how it's done Wednesday.
The Vikings played fundamentally strong volleyball to beat Whittell High School in three games. With painted faces, students from both schools stomped and cheered their teams along in a back-and-forth battle that saw the score tied 21 times.
Despite the chaotic scene, David set a calm tone.
"Bailey turned the game around," Vikings coach Dan McLaughlin said. "Bailey's passing turned us around because now we were attacking and because we were attacking, they were on their heels."
Bump, set, spike - David delivered on that first part. Her clean passes allowed setter Raquel Marchesseault to loft up some perfectly placed kill material. Then Drew Norberg and Morgan Kaufer destroyed the ball. Sequence complete.
The girls pushed the first game to 28-26 as South Tahoe's Kaufer and Norberg exchanged kills with Whittell's Amanda and Emily Harris.
A spike from Norberg here, a tip from Kaufer there, but a win kept slipping through the Vikings fingertips. The score pulled even six times in those final minutes of game one as the crowd went nuts.
Kendhyl Delacour delivered the final blow for the Vikings with a wicked serve that was returned out of bounds.
All totaled, Norberg fired 19 kills over the net.
"I just feel really confident when she's at the net," Kaufer said. "When Drew goes up she's going to get the kill."
Kaufer didn't do so bad herself, with 11 kills and four digs.
Those numbers probably would have been higher if it weren't for Whittell's Katie Besson. The Warriors defense specialist was flying around the backcourt. She dug up 12 spectacular shots against two of the toughest hitters in league.
Games two and three where not as close. The difference was Vikings libero David. It wasn't aces or kills, just plain consistency that David provided to keep the backcourt clean. She was the foundation of a 25-16 win in game two.
"Bailey's passes were on," Vikings setter Marchesseault said. "She set me up for everything. She set up the game."
In game three, David's serves were also on. She served through seven unanswered points as the Vikings cemented their 25-14 win. Kaila Griffis was right beside David in the serving trenches. Griffis went on a serving run to open game three and led the team with three aces.
"When we started passing and playing the defense necessary I knew we were going to win the match because we were doing the little thing," McLaughlin said. "Eventually we started wearing them down with the offense."
The Warriors matched the Vikings' intensity in game one, but the next two games were a different story.
"We had 45 errors and seven missed serves," Whittell coach Nathan Byrne said. "That's 52 points we gave them. We can't win a game like that."
Despite the errors, the Warriors showed moments of greatness. Amanda Harris came away with 10 kills and seven digs. Emily Harris recorded six kills and eight digs.
But at the end of the night, the Vikings had just played some good volleyball.
"That's probably the best I've seen South Tahoe volleyball girls in years," Whittell Athletic Director Kathy Bluethman said. "We like to call this a rivalry, but I think it's a rivalry of love."
South Tahoe will play its next home game against Incline, Monday at 6 p.m. The Warriors will host Truckee, Friday at 6 p.m.