MAXWELL — The Collins-Maxwell-Baxter and Prairie City-Monroe volleyball teams made it pretty obvious Friday night that neither one was ready for their season to end.
But only one could advance in the Class 3A regional quarterfinal game, and it went to the home team.
The Raiders pulled off a dramatic rally over their fellow Heart of Iowa Conference rivals, coming all the way back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Mustangs 3-2 in a match that was about as close as possible throughout. Game scores were 23-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21 and 15-13.
"It's just amazing," said CMB coach Scott Ranck, who lept off the hardwood floor at the same time his players celebrated when PCM's serve went into the net for the final play of the fifth-set win. "We dug in, kept fighting and never gave up. It's just awesome."
The Raiders (8-23) advance to Thursday's regional semifinals, when they'll make the trip out east to take on eighth-ranked West Liberty in Williamsburg (27-9) at 7 p.m. The Mustangs' season ends at 8-18.
"Ever since my freshman year, we haven't moved past the first round of playoffs," said CMB senior Shelby Berg, who went 19-of-20 serving and had a team-high 17 digs. "It's a pretty good feeling."
After the match's first two sets, it appeared PCM would be the one moving on. The Mustangs rallied from big deficits in both sets — down 14-5 in the first and 18-11 in the second — to win them by two- and three-point margins. An 11-1 run powered their comeback in the first, and a 9-0 run brought them from seven points down to one ahead in the second.
"We made some adjustments after the first two games," Ranck said. "We were in those games. We had big leads and let them come back. Those adjustments gave our kids a little more energy to come back and keep at it."
After a slow start to the third, CMB used a 6-0 run to take an 8-6 lead and then a 5-0 run to go up 14-8. The Raiders were still in command at 19-14 before PCM once again came back strong — using a 6-1 run of its own to tie the set at 20. The teams traded the next four points and then CMB scored three of the last four points to win it and stay alive.
The Raiders controlled the fourth set throughout, never trailing after taking a 9-8 lead. They stretched a lead to 21-13 before PCM stormed back to close within 22-20, but CMB once again won it by scoring three of the last three points — forcing the decisive fifth set.
"We were feeling pretty down (after the second set). But once we got a few points going and realized we could do this, we didn't stop," Raiders senior Cheyenne Warne said.
Warne hit on 24-of-27 serves with eight aces, had 14 kills, six digs and four blocks.
CMB kept its momentum going through the fifth set. It used a 4-0 run to take control with a 9-5 lead, and another 4-0 run to force game point at 14-8. But the Mustangs weren't ready to go home just yet. They scored the next five points — capped by a kill from junior Abbi Gilson to get within 14-13. But senior Kaitlyn Wilkie's next serve went into the net, setting off the Raiders' celebration.
"This is the best we've ever played together. The best game of our lives so far," Warne said. "We're very proud, especially to beat PCM."
The Mustangs had beaten CMB 3-1 in the team's regular season matchup on the same court Sept. 18.
The regular season loss wasn't the only motivation for several of the Raiders' multi-sport athletes.
"We played them first round of basketball (last year) and it was kind of a heartbreaker, so it feels pretty good to get them in volleyball," Berg said.
CMB hit on 100 out of 110 serves overall (90.9 percent) with 14 aces. Besides Berg and Warne's big nights, junior Abbie Haupert had a game-high 16 kills, had nine digs, four blocks and went 12-of-13 serving. Sophomore MacKenzie Schmitz had 15 assists, six digs and went 12-of-13 serving. Sophomore Abbey Appelgate had 12 digs and went 9-of-10 serving, junior Katie Ziesman had nine assists, eight digs and went 19-of-22 serving with four aces and senior Brittany Peterson contributed 14 digs.
PCM was sharp from the service line, hitting on 84 out of 90 (93.3 percent) with 11 aces. Gilson had a big night, going 19-of-20 from the line with eight aces, 15 kills, nine assists, 18 digs and three blocks. Senior Alex Samson went 11-of-12 serving, had nine kills, 20 assists and three blocks. Senior Kaitlyn Wilkie went 10-of-12 serving, had 12 digs and three blocks, senior Payge Edwards went 9-of-9 serving with two aces and had 10 digs and junior Lexi Kain added six kills.