The Centennial Spartans weren't about to give up their grip on the District 10 senior girls' volleyball title.
Friday night at the Mitchell Athletics Centre, the Spartans befriended momentum in the fifth set to claim a 3-2 victory over the John F. Ross Royals in the championship match.
"The finals are always tough and we always expect the other team to play well," Centennial coach Kristie Bradey said. "We've got to come with our A game and we did tonight."
The Spartans had hung tough for victories in the first two matches as Centennial prevailed 27-25 and 29-27. Ross seized the momentum in the third and fourth sets and it looked like the Royals would keep it after posting 25-15 and 25-11 wins.
"We just lost our intensity and we needed to get it back," Bradey said. "It had nothing to do with our play-making, it was just that our intensity was down."
The Spartans rediscovered that intensity in the fifth and deciding set when they posted a 15-11 win.
"That was incredibly intense," Centennial libero Emily Cowley said. "That was amazing and that was our best game of the season."
She turned in the play of the match, if not the season, by twice keeping the ball in play with diving saves in the fourth set when the Spartans were too far behind to realistically recover for a set victory. Cowley darted across the court to dive onto the scorers' table to get to the ball before it touched down, sending papers flying in the process. She quickly scrambled off the table and scampered to the other side of the court for another diving dig.
"I won't deny that it was one of my dreams to totally do that," she said. "I just wasn't really thinking. It was where's the ball, get the ball, get back on the court and get in that play and save it. And then we scored the point. It was just amazing."
Such was the effort that Cowley put into the play that she received a standing ovation from both sides.
"It was really impressive to see that even Ross's bench was up and clapping for it," she said. "It just shows that when it comes to incredible plays, everyone's on the same page and egos are just brushed to the side."
The loss was the first for the Royals in D10 play this season. They had gone a perfect 14-0 in the regular season and then won their two playoff matches to qualify for the final.
Centennial lost twice in the regular season as they dropped both matches they had with the Royals: 3-1 Dec. 5 and 3-0 Jan. 12.
Players of the championship game were Cowley and Tiana Fellows of Ross.
Both teams advance to next week's CWOSSA AAA tournament hosted by Kitchener's Forest Heights Wednesday and Thursday.
Ross opened the championship doubleheader by sweeping the Guelph CVI Green Gaels 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-21).
"That was unexpected," Ross coach Dave Giaschi said of the three-set win. "I was really scared of GCVI. Our last bunch of games did not go so well at GC. They have a very powerful lineup so they did worry me quite a bit coming into this game."
Expecting to be in the sights of all their opponents after a quick start to the season, the Royals prepared for that throughout the season and were ready for the pressure that brings in the playoffs. The Royals had finished atop the standings at 11-1 while the Gaels were second at 10-2.
"I kept telling the girls at the midway point of the season when we were 5-0 or 6-0 that there's a target on our backs so they were used to that all year," Giaschi said.
Players of the game were Robin Melnick of Ross and Emina Bektic of GCVI.
Both teams are also to compete at the CWOSSA AAA tournament next week at Kitchener-Waterloo.