SOUTH TAHOE, Calif. - Both teams were running on empty by the final match.
Nine games of volleyball in one day will do that, but Truckee dug deep to grind out wins against Dayton in five games and South Tahoe in four at the Northern I-A regional championship on Saturday. The back-to-back wins earned the Wolverines a No. 1 seed into the state championship tournament at Galena High School in Reno on Friday.
While Truckee's new regional title sure has a nice ring, it was actually its narrow semifinal win against Dayton that mattered most.
"We're going to state and that is what we came here to do today," said Truckee coach Erika Murphy, whose Wolverines will now seek a fourth consecutive state championship.
The girls left everything they had on the court Saturday to earn the trip to state. It took five games, 62 digs and 37 kills to beat Dayton. By the end, every one of those points mattered.
Truckee seemed to have the winning formula on lock as it took the first two games 25-19 and 25-13. Mackenzie Redner and Mel Jones dominated at the net while Kestlie Stefanelli and Gabby Moretti helped keep the backcourt clean.
All that now stood between the Wolverines and a trip to state was one game and an elite outside hitter named Madison Foley.
But Foley is not to be underestimated. Despite the 2-0 lead, Foley was breathing down Truckee's neck. It was enough pressure to spark some second-half adjustments for the Wolverines.
"I had to rearrange my rotation because we hadn't seen them with Maddie, and I should have just left the rotation," Murphy said.
The adjustments didn't pay off. They actually seemed to work in Foley's favor as she led Dayton to a 25-19 win and 25-12 win to tie the match.
A trip to state was now riding on Game 5.
The Wolverines reverted to their original wining rotation. Redner shook off the past two games and came out hard.
"One of the things I like is she shrugged off her mistakes," Murphy said. "She just shrugged them off and that's what you want your players to do."
Redner and Foley exchanged kill-for-kill as the Wolverines edged ahead then slipped behind.
The game pushed beyond 15 points, but it ended up being mistake-free volleyball that earned Truckee the 18-16 win.
"One of the things my girls have learned is they have to play together. If they don't have good ball control, good serving and good passing, we don't get done what we need to get done," Murphy said.
With state in the bag, the girls could breath a little easier as they headed into the finals against South Tahoe.
The Wolverines made no changes to their winning rotation and took an early lead with a 25-16 win in Game 1.
"The rotation has a more open block for Kenzie and then she was able to get a better swing," Murphy said.
Redner getting a better swing is a scary sight for opponents. The power hitter added another 21 kills against South Tahoe to record 41 total kills on Saturday.
To South Tahoe's credit, the Vikings stood their ground against the slams despite just finishing an exhausting five-game, two-hour volleyball battle.
"Definitely props to them for being able to come back out and to play a whole nother game," Truckee junior Chelsea Mohun said. "But they're always a good team. They bring their A-game."
The Vikings regained energy in Game 2 and tied the match at 1-1.
But Stefanelli, the Wolverines' senior libero, picked up a beat on the Vikings kills. By Game 3 she was a digging machine. Stefanelli came up with 22 digs against two of the best hitters in Northern Nevada and kept the momentum rolling.
"She's a captain and she's my thermostat. She really sets the tone for the team," Murphy said.
Her defensive efforts kept the Wolverines in the game, although South Tahoe grabbed an early lead.
Redner delivered the final points as she tipped and served her team to 25-22 victory.
The Wolverines' serving carried them through Game 4. Redner didn't miss a serve all afternoon. Together, with Stefanelli, the two were a double threat from the service line.
The Wolverines cemented their regional title with a 25-16 win in Game 4.
"The energy that every person brought helped us come together," Mohun said. "We were able to not think so much about playing for ourselves, but playing for our teammates, and once you have that unity and bond, playing is just the best thing in the world."