The Vikings left every scrap of energy they had on the court Saturday.
The girls played more than five hours of all-out volleyball through nine straight games to grind out a trip to state playoffs.
The state-clinching semifinal win wasn't easy. It took five games and the Vikings' full arsenal, but South Tahoe steadily chipped away at Fernley for the 3-2 win that mattered most that day.
"It took everything we had to beat them and then to turn around and play Truckee and we still found something," South Tahoe coach Dan McLaughlin said. "They really dug deep."
Every dig, every serve, every kill, every tip all added up as the Vikings stretched their endurance to the limit Saturday.
Semifinals mean most
The electricity was tangible as the girls took the court for their semifinal game against Fernley. State was on the line and every person in the South Tahoe gym knew it.
Behind an explosive outside hitter, the Fernley Vaqueros jumped out to an early 8-2 lead.
The Vikings stayed calm, however, and Morgan Kaufer shut the Fernley run down. The senior delivered a kill so hard it knocked the bow off an opposing player.
Kaufer played the net and backcourt like she had a twin out there. She delivered 14 kills and 26 digs against Fernley.
South Tahoe started to inch back as Kaufer and the rest of the Vikings' hitting crew found their mark. Drew Norberg and Emily Gardner landed kills from all angles and the Vikings closed the score to 17-18.
The Vikings had found their stride, but the Vaqueros hung on to the momentum for a 25-19 Game 1 win.
Games 2 was a different story. South Tahoe matched Fernley point-for-point.
Kaufer and Kaila Griffis teamed up for the go-ahead point. Kaufer hammered a lethal serve while Griffis followed up with a deciding kill for the 25-20 win.
The Vikings gained the upper hand in Game 3 with a 25-18 win.
Raquel Marchesseault and Hannah Neiger's serves were the difference maker as the girls continued to spread the hits out at the net. As the a team, the Vikings delivered 44 kills to Fernley. Norberg carried 19 of those.
Fernley wasn't about to go quietly, however. The Vaqueros surged back to tie the match at 2-2 and took control of Game 5.
Game 5 didn't look good for the Vikings. They were two points away from elimination, trailing 13-11. After two hours of volleyball, and a season of sacrifice, this was the final moment that would decide who would go home.
But South Tahoe had come too far for it to end like this.
A tip from Kaufer tied the game, and Norberg put it away with two consecutive kills.
"They just wouldn't quit. It show's a lot of determination and fire to become good when you're not on your best game. That was just pure guts," McLaughlin said. "We had to find a way to win that thing and we did. I don't know how those kids dug deep to get to that spot, but they did."
South Tahoe digs even deeper
The girls were approaching five straight hours of volleyball as they neared the end of their championship match against Truckee. By this point, even the spectators were grumbling about sore muscles, but somehow the Vikings were still bringing intensity.
Seniors Bailey David and Norberg were shouting words of encouragement and slamming high fives to keep the energy up.
"Definitely props to them for being able to come back out and to play a whole other game, but they're always a good team." Truckee junior Chelsea Mohun said. "They bring their A Game."
South Tahoe brought their A Game until the tank hit empty.
David and Griffis came up with a combined 41 digs against the Wolverines. Norberg and Kaufer served up a combined 30 kills.
Their efforts earned the Vikings a resounding 25-19 win in Game 2 and tied the match at 1-1.
The girls battled until the end of Game 3, but by the ninth straight game they were plain and simple out of gas.
"That's a pretty tall order," McLaughlin said. "They tried very hard to fight through but that's asking a lot of them. The game that mattered was the one where we fought the hardest."
Well put because the semifinals win means this is not the end of the road for the South Tahoe's seniors. It's been 25 years since a South Tahoe volleyball team has made state championships in back-to-back years, and this year's team has done just that.
"We've still got a chance to win the whole thing," McLaughlin said.