After expending so much energy during a grueling, five-set thriller, Kellenberg's girls volleyball team still had enough left in the tank for a celebratory dog pile at the net after earning the CHSAA championship.
No. 1 Kellenberg won a wild match over No. 2 St. Anthony's, 3-2, at St. Dominic Tuesday night after trailing 2-1. It was a nail-biter from the opening service, and both sides played like deserving champions.
Latest HS sports stories
The Firebirds (13-1) outlasted the persistent Friars (12-2) behind an incredible fourth set by Cara Kennedy that shifted the momentum Kellenberg's way.
"I was waiting all season for her to come out, and she played her heart out tonight,'' said game MVP Tina Ceriello, who made 17 digs and played outstanding defense throughout.
When asked what it was like to keep Kellenberg alive, Kennedy was lost for words.
"I don't even know,'' she said. "I'm just so shocked. I knew we could do it, but it's such a good feeling to actually win.''
A slump followed Kellenberg's 25-19 win in the first set, as the Friars built a 2-1 advantage after wins of 26-24 in the next two sets.
Kennedy took over in the fourth. She served from 11-9 and recorded three aces until St. Anthony's scored again at 21-10. And it's not a shock that the Friars had problems handling her rocket serve.
She hit the ball hard. She hit the ball low. She hit the ball with conviction. She hit the Firebirds to a 25-10 victory.
"She's been working on it all year,'' said coach Cathy VonSchoenermarck after a 25-13 win in the deciding fifth set. "When she turns it on, it's impossible to stop. When it counted the most, she came through.''
In a sport all about momentum, Kellenberg really struggled to build any at all after the opening set. Despite consistently strong play by Tori Moulder, Kate Calabro, Kiersten Cote and Ceriello, the Firebirds couldn't get anything going.
But Moulder, who was a force at the net with 16 blocks, knew all along that her team would figure it out.
"We have been working so hard this whole season,'' she said. "We knew we had to find it in ourselves and play for each other. We knew we could do it once we stepped onto that court.''