NAMPA — It wasn’t even close for Meranda Maestas.
The Madison volleyball head coach won a state title with Bonneville as a player in 2007. While she admitted it was a pretty special feeling, the moment paled in comparison to Saturday night.
After coming so close the last two seasons with a pair of third place finishes, the Bobcats finally broke through after 26 long years.
Madison upended two-time reigning 4A state champion Skyview with a 25-18, 25-23 sweep in the winner-take-all if necessary championship game of the 5A volleyball state tournament Saturday at Ridgevue High School.
It was the Bobcats’ first state title since 1992.
Every player on the roster was still at least nine years from being born and Maestas herself was only two.
“It’s better because I saw firsthand just the amount of work it takes to pull something like this off,” Maestas said. “So it was really special for me to sit back as a coach and watch them all reap the rewards of a really long and tough season. You don’t really think about that when you’re a player. So I’ll take this title over the one I got as a player any day.”
But the unforgettable moment looked like it wasn’t going to be.
The Hawks had pulled off comeback after comeback, including a 26-24, 25-21, 25-17 sweep of the Bobcats (39-5) in the first championship match that prompted the winner-take-all final contest.
Skyview (38-6) trailed Madison 23-20 in the first set and 12-4 in the second in match one. But the Hawks came back in both sets to win 26-24 and 25-21, respectively. They polished off the Bobcats one set later to seemingly take all the momentum going into the final match.
“It was pretty hard on our souls to lose like that, but our team actually does a lot better under pressure,” junior middle blocker Alexis Garner said. “So when it actually came down to it, our team kicked it into gear. That’s just who we have been all season.”
Madison, though, had other ideas as Skyview’s luck ran out.
The Hawks only led once in the opening set and that was on the first point of the game after the Bobcats were whistled for a net violation. But from there Madison went on runs of 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 and led by as much as 10 at 22-12 before taking the first set 25-18 off of a miscommunication from Skyview’s Eden Bower and Jorian Blacker.
In the second set, it was the Bobcats making a comeback for a change.
The Hawks flew out to a 7-1 lead on an ace by Morgan Bower.
The lead grew to as much as eight at 10-2 and Skyview appeared well on its way to forcing a final set when Eden Bower’s kill made it 17-12.
But Madison’s Charity Wilson completely took over the game and led the unlikeliest of rallies. The sophomore outside hitter netted six kills and an ace during a stretch when the Bobcats scored 13 of the final 19 points, including going on 3-0 runs on three different occasions. So it only seemed fitting that it was Wilson who delivered the final blow.
After digging a Morgan Bower serve, Wilson put the game’s final kill away on a shot that went right through the fingertips of Molly Anderson and down to the court below.
“It could have gone to anyone really and anyone could have taken care of it, but it’s still really special for me,” Wilson said. “After I killed it I just kind of looked at everyone else and then all of a sudden what I had just done hit me. I’ll never forget this.”
Wilson netted 25 kills and 24 kills in the championship series. Junior outside hitter Macie Gordon added 14 kills and 15 digs, junior Alexis Weaver chipped in with 35 digs, while senior setter Chloe Miller did her part with 52 assists, along with 52 assists.
The Bobcats advanced to the state title against Skyview with a thrilling five-set victory over Lake City earlier in the day.
Madison’s win extends eastern Idaho’s streak of 5A state championships to five in a row. The Bobcats can now join neighbors Bonneville, Century and Idaho Falls in the region’s seemingly never-ending championship pedigree.
The Bobcats graduate two seniors, so this may just only be the start of what’s to come.
“We’ll be ready again next year,” Wilson said. “We’re already looking forward to seeing what we can do next.”