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After blown lead, Watertown-Mayer survives Totino-Grace rally to advance to state tournament

By Adam Holt, SportsEngine, 11/01/19, 8:00PM CDT


Paige Thibault logged 29 kills, including in some key moments in the crucial fifth set, for the Royals.

Watertown-Mayer's Paige Thibault (3) plays a shot at the net against Totino-Grace. The Royals advanced to the Class 2A state tournament with a five-set victory over the Eagles (25-17, 25-22, 25-23, 2-175,15-13). Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

Watertown-Mayer's Kate Thibault (4) leans out to her right to keep the play alive on a point against Totino-Grace. The Royals survived a five-set thriller with the Eagles to advance to the Class 2A state tournament. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

It was a sprint that might have saved a season.

A Totino-Grace attack was flying out of bounds off Watertown-Mayer in the fifth set of the Class 2A, Section 5 championship. Royals hitter Paige Thibault took off after the ball, diving and getting a swing under it to send it back into the court for her teammates to keep alive. At the end of the rally, Thibault's kill tied the game 8-8, and the Royals went on to win the set — and win the section title, 25-17, 25-22, 25-23, 25-17, 15-13.

It was emblematic not only of the toughness each team showed in the match, but of the all-around play that Thibault brings to Watertown-Mayer (24-6).

“Honestly, this group has such a tight bond,” Thibault said. “We just didn’t want to be done playing with each other, because we love each other so much. So we just fought for each other every single point.”

Watertown-Mayer went up two straight sets and seemed ready to cruise to another state tournament appearance. But Totino-Grace started fast in the third and fourth sets to tie it, then got off to a 7-2 lead in the fifth.

Totino-Grace's Elizabeth Holscher (3) stretches for a dig against Watertown-Mayer in the Class 2A, Section 5 final Saturday evening. The Eagles fell in five sets to the Royals. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

First report

Fast starts were the story in the Class 2A, Section 5 championship — until they weren’t.

No. 1 seed Watertown-Mayer needed a comeback in the fifth set to avoid blowing a two-game lead, and topped No. 3 seed Totino-Grace with a 25-17, 25-22, 25-23, 25-17, 15-13 win Saturday at Bloomington Kennedy to return to the state volleyball tournament.

The team that started better in the first four sets won. The Royals (24-6) went up 12-3 and 24-12 on their way to a 25-17 win in the first set. Watertown-Mayer led 20-13 in the second set, but Totino-Grace went on a 9-3 run to get within a point before a pair of Eagle errors ended it in favor of the Royals.

Down two sets, Totino-Grace (17-14) went up 24-19 in the third before Watertown-Mayer responded. A Rylie Rios kill, however, put it away at 25-23 and forced a fourth game.

Then, Totino-Grace went up 7-2 in the fifth, but a run behind Paige Thibault’s play helped Watertown-Mayer tie it 8-8. The Royals went up 13-12 and soon finished off the five-set win.The Eagles never trailed in a 25-17 win in the fourth game.

Thibault had 29 kills to lead all players, and Natalie Ernhart had 40 assists.

The Eagles got 26 kills from Rylie Rios and 21 from Marley Webb. Abby Zehr had 52 assists.

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