Just a year removed from a devastating loss in this same situation, the No. 6 Sunnyslope volleyball team celebrated a championship, defeating No. 1 Millennium 15-25, 25-21, 25-18, 14-25, 16-14 in the 2019 AIA 5A Girls Volleyball Championship Final.
The Vikings had been in this same spot in 2018. They lost the championship game to Millennium, who was making its foray into 5A play. The title was sweet treat, but to earn it with a side of revenge was even greater.
“They’re such a good team, so it’s hard to describe just how much this means,” said Sunnyslope junior Michelle Jung.
Down 13-7 in a final set to 15, the Vikings seemed all but finished. Even LeTarte thought so.
“I was kind of looking at the score like ‘Dang it, we’re done, this is over,’ but they never gave up,” coach Amber LeTarte said.
The Vikings, though, won six consecutive points to force a tie, even faced a Millennium match point down 14-13. As a Millennium hit went out of bounds the Vikings swarmed the floor in celebration of the title.
“It’s just a team effort, but we just believed so much in ourselves no matter the score and held together,” Jung said.
While top-seeded Millennium mostly ran dominant through its 2019 5A regular season, Sunnyslope had beaten the Tigers 2-1 in a midseason tournament. However, they knew it would be even more difficult to take down the defending champions in the title match.
The Tigers came out hot, utilizing defense to mitigate even Sunnyslope’s best hits and keeping points long to goat the Vikings into unforced errors. On the offensive end, Millennium hit slick shots into the corners to score points.
But, Sunnyslope retooled to take the second set, not missing the same shots as the first. They took a lead early, even reaching 21-14 lead and playing great defense of its own, including effective blocking.
“That was amazing, just getting touches off the block and going after everything,” LeTarte said.
The Vikings continued their dominance in the third, breezing to a relatively-easy third-set win and deflating the Tiger team that had not trailed in a match all tournament.
Millennium would not go away quietly. The two teams battled, but the Tigers pulled away and forced the tiebreaker.
The win constitutes a storybook finish for the Vikings, who LeTarte said had an ‘up-and-down’ season with injuries and tough losses.
Several seniors who have meant so much to the program played their last game in black and green, and the team will honor them until next season comes around. But, the Vikings are still young, and bring back a lot of their best players. They hope to be holding the gold ball in 2020, too.
“It means a lot, because we want to be right back here again next year,” Jung