Doherty superstar Haleigh Washington said she was scared before the Spartans' Class 5A state-title rematch with Grandview on Saturday afternoon.
"Like really, really scared," she said. "I mean, you go in and I remember losing before or making really dumb plays or getting hurt - things are just going through my head before I go out there. But we always say on this team, the closer you get to game time the more confident you need to get. So by game time, I finally felt good."
It showed. Washington had 48 kills, seven digs, five blocks and three aces as Doherty rallied, and then rallied some more, in a five-game win over Grandview 29-31, 25-23, 25-18, 20-25, 18-16.
According to stats kept by the Colorado High School Activities Association through the summer of 2010, the state record for kills in a match was 43, set in 2001. No records were available from 2011-2013.
Teammate Gabby Simpson added 11 kills and 12 digs for the host Spartans (1-0) in their opener.
"Our team is like one of those inflated punching bags that you keep hitting, but they just keep popping right back up," said Doherty coach Tara Hittle, who thought Washington's kills set a school record. "We may be a bit young and inexperienced in some places, but we showed we are going to have fight this year. A lot of it."
The Spartans, who only returned two starters from last season's state title team, bounced back from a back-and-forth, opening-game loss with two convincing wins in the second and third. It was then Washington began finding her groove, and devastated Grandview's back line with one loud kill after another.
"She was dominant. We couldn't stop her," Grandview coach Patty Childress said. "Honestly, we had no idea quite how they would use her. They lost so many kids from a season ago, so we knew her role would be different. And it was - and we had no answer for it."
But the seasoned Wolves still managed to take charge late in the match anyway and dampened the raucous crowd in Doherty's gym with a spread-out attack that was hitting on all cylinders by the midpoint of the fourth game.
Grandview senior Alyssa Svalberg, who tried to make up for a shaky performance in her team's three-game loss in November's state title game, gave a strong performance led by two kills to end the fourth and consecutive kills to give the Wolves a 10-6 lead in the fifth game.
She didn't have the last word though. In crunch time, it was all Washington. The senior tapped one kill to the right, one to the left and finally drilled the game-winner down the left-court line. She had nine kills in her team's final 10 points.
"That was so much fun. I mean my teammates were just doing awesome, then we'd get down and come back at them. It was great," Washington said. "I don't think it gets more fun than this.