Cape Girardeau...The Villa Duchesne faithful sang "When the Saints Go Marching In" prior to the Saints' match against St. Pius X of Kansas City at the MSHSAA Volleyball Championships Saturday at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau.
And the Saints marched in to record their first ever state volleyball title as they defeated the Warriors 25-21, 25-22.
"It has been an incredible year," Villa Duchesne coach Shane Weber said. "This was such a resilient group. There were many times when their backs were to the ball and they just stayed calm and composed."
The title was especially satisfying for seniors Mary Boyle, Faith Rolwes and Megan Peterson, who were members of the Villa Duchense team which finished second in state in 2009.
"I think what happened two years ago fueled us this year," Boyle said. "This was such a surreal experience."
Villa Duchesne, which had beaten St. Pius 25-8, 25-20 in the round robin portion of the tournament Friday, fell behind the Warriors 11-6 in the first game Saturday when Weber called a timeout.
The Saints responded and eventually tied the game 14-14. Rowles had a big block to give the Saints a 24-20 advantage and Boyle closed it out with a kill.
Villa led for most of the second game before St. Pius made a comeback to get to within a point at 23-22.
Boyle and Riley Lawrence combined for a block on match point which set off a wild celebration.
"I can't believe it," Rowles said. "This is a team which has always backed each other up. We worked hard and we came here knowing what to expect since we have been here before. We wanted to treat it like any other big game."
And it was as big a game as there can be in high school sports.
"This is huge," Peterson said. "We worked so hard for this."
Weber said it was a team which came into the state tournament determined and calm.
"We cut our practices to an hour and a half and played music and had fun," he said. "We just consistently got better the last three or four weeks of the season and played our best volleyball here."
Peterson is going to continue her volleyball career at Colorado School of the Mines and Rolwes is considering several schools. But, like Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa, Boyle is going out in style.
"I am not playing in college or even club ball," Boyle said. "This was my last game in my last year and we win a championship."
It was a happy ending indeed for Boyle and the rest of the Saints.