The improbable was made possible thanks to the grit and determination of 14 volleyball players from Wood River High School.
The Wolverines took the hard road in the Great Basin Conference West tournament at Burley Tuesday, coming through the loser bracket to earn the right to play the unbeaten Bobcats in the championship. Needing to win two matches in the double-elimination format, the Wood River girls did just that, twice bumping off Burley to claim the crown, their 19th district title in school history.
"It was unbelievable," Wood River assistant coach Gary Carr said. "The kids needed life support after it was over. They were so exhausted, but they kept on going."
Wood River (18-10-2) bounced Jerome in the loser out game 3-0. That put the Wolverines in the first final against #1 seed Burley, a game they won 3-1 by scores of 26-24, 22-25, 25-12, 25-22.
Squaring off in the "if-necessary" championship, hometown Burley claimed the first game 25-13, and Wood River the second 25-23. Burley took a 2-1 advantage by winning the fourth game 25-23, but the determined Wolverines evened the match with a taut 27-25 victory in game 4.
"We were behind in game after game, but each time they willed themselves to pull ahead," said Wood River coach Tim Richards.
Trailing 12-8 in decisive game 5, Wood River summoned the will to win and clawed out a 15-13 victory to take the match, 3-2. Senior Hannah Ward's (33 kills vs. Burley) perfectly placed shot fell to the floor for the final point.
"She took a swing, but smartly, like she played the whole tournament, she took a little bit off. Burley was back on their heels and no one could touch it," Richards said.
"There were 300 people packed in that gym and it was unbelievably loud, but on the final point you could hear a pin drop," Carr said.
Richards went on to say how proud he was of his team and the way they hung in there, despite spending close to seven hours battling on the court.
"A lot of people say they want it and a lot of people think they can go out and get it, but to actually do it is a whole different thing," he said.
"Our girls were on the court from 3 p.m. until 9:55 p.m. and that is a lot of volleyball," Richards said. "I asked them, 'Who has the heart to stay with me?', and they answered. They really achieved something and I am so proud of them."
Wood River played Century in a state-seeding match Thursday in Pocatello. The State 4A Tournament is Oct. 26-27 in Post Falls.