Rose Hill junior Bailey Santo held the volleyball at the service line, a pointer finger high in the air as she yelled, "One!" One point is all the Rockets needed Saturday evening to score to advance to the Class 4A tournament.
Maize South's initial pass on the serve went to the net, and Rose Hill's Kylie Pfaff slammed it down for the victory.
Rose Hill defeated host Maize South 22-25, 25-20, 25-13 and will play in the 4A tournament at the Salina Bicentennial Center beginning Friday.
"This is unbelievable," said Rose Hill first-year coach Melissa Segovia, whose team is 33-6. "They kept fighting and fighting and fighting."
The Rockets were forced to battle because their sub-state included six teams with winning records.
"We actually would have rather had this sub-state than any other one," McDougald said. "We wanted people to know that Rose Hill deserved to go to state. And we deserve it."
But it wasn't easy. The Rockets nearly allowed the match to slip away in the first two games.
They had a 7-0 lead on Maize South in the first game, then led 15-9 as McDougald picked apart the Mavericks' defense with nine kills, finishing with a match-high 17.
But Maize South kept chipping away, got a kill here and there and watched Rose Hill hit the ball into the net four times in the match's final 12 points.
"It was all mental," Segovia said. "Just one point and then another point and then another point, and they couldn't get it back."
Maize South (38-4) had control in the second game, too, taking a 16-11 lead as Rose Hill continued to implode with unforced errors. Jody Larson did her share for Maize South with four kills in a span of six Mavericks' points. She finished with 13 kills.
"I was thinking, 'OK, I think we have this,' " Maize South coach Teri Larson said. "I was feeling comfortable. And I think they were, too."
Understandable. Rose Hill was reeling.
But a four-point scoring stretch by Rose Hill turned this match. On three consecutive points, Pfaff had a kill, a stuff block and another kill, while setter Katelynn Slade had a tip to get Rose Hill within 16-15.
McDougald blocked Kelsey Sterneker for the 19-17 lead, which Rose Hill didn't lose.
"We had to push for everything, and we did," McDougald said.
The third game was all Rose Hill. While Maize South got within 5-4, mistakes piled up. There were consecutive missed serves and then mis-hit and poor serve-receive.
"We basically don't stop believing," said Santo, who had five of her nine kills in the final game. "We push points. We push until we reach one goal, and then we set another one."
At Maize South
Quarterfinals—Maize South def. Wellington 25-3, 25-8; Rose Hill def. Clearwater 25-9, 25-19; Andale def. Collegiate 25-17, 25-11; Trinity Academy def. Mulvane 28-26, 25-23. Semifinals— Maize South def. Andale 25-12, 25-18; Rose Hill def. Trinity Academy 25-11, 25-21. Championship— Rose Hill def. Maize South 22-25, 25-20, 25-13.