Tori Boyse, one of seven Mid-Prairie seniors, tied the score against Tipton with a kill.
Then, she put the Golden Hawks ahead in their winner-take-all River Valley Conference Tournament match with another kill.
Seconds later, following an acrobatic defensive play by Paige Peiffer and a match-winning hit by Maddie Edgington, both seniors, the celebration began.
The moment had been in waiting for four years.
The Golden Hawks formed a circle on court and jumped up and down. Head coach Sherry Evans joined them and emerged with reddened eyes.
“This group is so special to me,” she said.
Rallying from two points down in the third and deciding set of the River Valley South fifth-place match, the Golden Hawks emerged with a 25-21, 20-25, 16-14 victory. They also swept North Cedar to set up the fifth-place meeting with Tipton, producing a historic night for a senior class that had lost every conference match except one in 2017 entering this year.
“Winning a conference tourney meant so much to me and my team,” said Boyse, who had six kills. “We came out with the mindset that we have nothing to lose. We knew what we had to do and we all dug really deep to do that. Last night showed me that we can work together to really rise above others no matter how good the team is.”
When this year’s seniors were freshmen, Mid-Prairie defeated Northeast in a conference game on Oct. 10, 2017. Karsen Jehle and Myah Lugar were on the varsity that year, as they were this year. The Golden Hawks didn’t win another conference game until Sept. 1 this year. Winning anything in the conference tournament was unreachable. Until this year.
And until Evans delivered a motivating message.
Trailing 14-12 to Tipton in the final set, the Golden Hawks were in trouble and within one point of losing.
Evans called for a timeout, knowing this was a defining moment.
“You girls got to dig deep and play with heart!”
And that, Evans said later, is precisely what the Golden Hawks did. They fought off two match points by Tipton to tie the match at 14-14 and then scored the next two points to end it.
The win may prove to be a stepping-off point for a building program that includes Ella Groenewold, a sophomore who had 10 kills, and Landry Pacha, who had 24 assists.
“This is really exciting for the program as a whole,” Evans said.
The win was actually the second over Tipton in three days. The Golden Hawks swept Tipton on Oct. 13.