The only time coach Chris Leverenz’s face tightened up was when her Auburn Riverside volleyball players started singing “We Are The Champions” – very off key.
She was willing to forgive the few seconds of torture. Only an hour later, the Ravens came onto the court for the Class 4A title match with what their coach described as a “game face I don’t think I’ve seen before.”
Everything shined — the defense, the serving and, of course, Calley Heilborn’s offense.
In the end, Auburn Riverside swept Mead, 25-21, 25-13, 25-18, on Saturday night in the Toyota Center.
“This was definitely one of the best matches we’ve played all season,” said Heilborn, who had a match-high 18 kills, 15 digs and wrapped up 4A tournament most valuable player honors. “To come out and swing away like that was so incredible.”
This was a rematch of the semifinals of the Linda Sheridan Classic in Spokane — swept by the Ravens (34-2).
After winning the first set, Auburn Riverside’s defense and serving punctuated the key span of the match — 11 consecutive points.
Tied at 3-3 in the second set, a couple of blocks from Heilborn — and alert back-row defense by Kaytlyn Heaship (19 digs) and Clarice Buchanan (18 digs) – sent the Panthers (24-3) reeling.
Brianna Ingram’s kill up the middle gave the Ravens a 14-3 lead.
“They were zoned in out in the back row,” Leverenz said. “(The Panthers hitters) were swinging at some hard balls, and we kept digging them out.”
Mead had an early 3-2 lead before the Panthers went on one final run — seven consecutive points.
The Panthers went on an 8-1 run to cut Auburn Riverside’s lead to 13-12. And they easily could have tied it, but Lindsey Russell’s tap that would have easily been a winner clipped the net and fell back.
The match ended on Heilborn’s kill to an unoccupied spot in the back row.
It was the Ravens’ second state title in three seasons. They went undefeated in capturing the Class 3A title in 2014, sweeping Capital in the championship finals.
The last school to win a 4A and 3A title was Prairie (4A in 1998; 3A in 2012).
“That team was always expected (to win),” Leverenz said. “With this team, we started out with some people thinking, ‘Oh, they are OK, they are not that good.’ And we’ve just gotten better and better. That is what makes it so special, no one would have thought going in that we could do it.”