"I told the team, there are good wins and there are great wins," Rebels Coach Sean Beattie said after his team advanced to Thursday's second round, where it will face Firebaugh or West Valley Christian at a site to be determined, "but when you're down two, facing elimination, that's a great win."
With a noisy crowd behind it and a 2-0 lead, Laguna Blanca (11-12), the Condor League champion, seemingly had all the momentum entering the third game. But it was the third game that served as the turning point for the Rebels (11-13).
"I think it was two things," said Beattie, who got 20 kills and eight blocks from Kenyatta Smith and 12 kills and six blocks from Jared Norsworthy. "No. 1 [was] desperation. We knew this was it, one more bad game, season's over. No. 2, our mistakes went down."
Prep kept it close in each of the first two games, leading in both, but between hitting errors, errant serves and infractions gave away 18 points.
"Our passing was terrible in the first two games," Smith said.
And as Laguna and its crowd grew louder, the Rebels' play seemed to become more and more lackluster. But that changed in the intermission between the second and third games.
"I told the kids this is the time to play for your hearts," Beattie said, "because you've got nothing left after this."
Despite a Smith kill beginning the third game, the turnaround didn't begin until Laguna had taken an 8-4 lead.
A kill from Norsworthy, who came up with timely, momentum-shifting kills and blocks throughout, began a three-point swing that also included a Chad Cosse kill and a Norsworthy block to cut the score to 8-7. Ultimately, though, the swing began a 7-1 run for the Rebels in which they emerged with an 11-10 lead and an advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
"I think from game two to game three, it was all about our energy," Smith said.