RENO, Nev. - It all started back in preseason practice when the girls scribbled down their volleyball goals. On each scrap of paper that was turned in, one theme was common- winning state.
"We kept our promise to that piece of paper," setter Raquel Marchesseault said.
The girls had waited a long time for this moment, so when it finally arrived they didn't dilly dally. The Vikings claimed the Nevada Division I-A state championships in three straight games, 25-17, 25-19 and 25-9, against Chaparral in Reno on Saturday.
It's been 22 years since a Viking volleyball team hoisted the championship plaque. With tears in their eyes, the 2012 girls broke the near quarter-century drought.
"We played with our heart for every point out there," senior Drew Norberg said. "We really wanted that trophy, and we always had that mentality that losing is not an option."
The Vikings don't consider themselves underdogs, but the odds were truly against them Saturday. They faced a towering team with an outside hitter named Jaeda Allen, who easily touches 10 feet.
The day before, the Vikings watched Allen's cannon of a swing devastate Truckee, a team that beat South Tahoe three times this season. She led Chaparral to a four-game win against the regional champions with hits that looked like they belonged on a college court.
Sitting in the bleachers, the Vikings knew their work was cut out for them, senior Bailey David said.
But the No. 2 seeded Vikings built their season on comebacks and long shots. Saturday would be no different.
"I don't get intimidated and neither do my teams. You're never out of any game, no matter what the score is." head coach Dan McLaughlin said. "They don't ever feel that there is anybody who can outplay them, and that's just their belief."
Apparently, because the Vikings' net squad that averages 5-foot-9 completely shut down Allen, the elite 6-foot-2 outside hitter.
"We shut her down and that was their big game. I think she ended up getting two kills," outside hitter Morgan Kaufer said.
South Tahoe's mere 13 digs is all the evidence needed to prove the girls took Chaparral's offense out of the game.
The Cowboys' offense started out strong enough.
Game 1 was a back-and-forth volleyball battle. The score pulled even seven times in the opening minutes. Norberg, Emily Gardner and Hannah Neiger blocked with everything they had to keep the win within reach. Unbelievable block-after-block kept the Vikings in the game.
Once the score hit 17-17, the Vikings had enough.
Kaufer served up eight unanswered points, including two aces and a match-point bullet that was not returnable.
"We served hard. I don't believe in safe," McLaughlin said. "There's only one time in the game when you just get the ball in and that's when you're behind and the other team is at game point. You have no other choice."
The Vikings never found themselves in that corner Saturday. The girls soaked Chaparral's court with a steady drum of wrecklessly tough serves. Serve, block, serve, block, the girls kept pounding their strengths until finally they got the run they were waiting for.
Once the Vikings accelerated past Chaparral, they never took their foot off the gas.
Game 2 followed a similar formula. The score hit 12-12, the girls rocketed ahead again.
"We broke down a couple of times and they didn't take advantage of it," McLaughlin said. "We found our way out of it. They broke down and we took it."
This time it was Neiger who led the Vikings on an unanswered tear. She served six straight points.
Meanwhile, David and Kaila Griffis dove and twisted around the backcourt to keep Neiger's service run going and hard Chaparral hits off the floor.
The digs were scrappy, and so were the passes Marchasseault was turning into hittable sets. The Vikings setter was adjusting to tough passes and two separate offenses on the fly. She was also spreading sets around at key moments.
"She set the best game she's ever set. She would set just enough balls to Hannah to keep her in the game and keep them off balance. Just enough to Kaila," McLaughlin said. "She worked a lot more balls to Emily when it seemed like it was the right fit and the right time to do it."
It was Norberg, however, who cemented the two-game lead. The senior middle put down back-to-back kills to put Game 2 away.
Game 3 was no contest. The Vikings were full speed ahead, and it looked like they took all Chaparral's momentum with them. The Vikings were charged as every point inched them closer to their ultimate goal.
Marchesseault served up the final point, and Norberg tapped down the return with her final jump as a Vikings volleyball player.
"This has been our goal since day one so we fought with everything we had to win this game," David said. "It was the last game we were going to play, so we just played our hearts out and put everything on the court."
The Vikings graduate five seniors: Norberg, Kaufer, David, Gardner, Dominique Daniels and Samantha Durham. Norberg recorded 14 kills, four blocks and four digs. Kaufer put down nine kills, seven aces and three digs. David delivered two digs and 11 serves. Gardner contributed four kills and two blocks.
"It's a pretty great feeling that I get to leave that legacy," Kaufer said. "We'll get to come back and see that plaque in the trophy case."
It took every girl on the team to pick up get that trophy in the case.
"I was thinking about this, if you're picking an MVP how can you?" McLauglin said.