The moment was too big for Payton Salquist.
After helping her team pull off a comeback for the ages, Grand Forks Red River's senior setter broke down.
A trip to the Class A state championship match in her first and only varsity season? That seemed entirely out of the picture with the Roughriders trailing West Fargo by seven late in a must-win fourth set Friday at the Minot State University Dome.
Grand Forks Red River senior Cassidy Bush (14) watches her spike attempt sail over a pair of West Fargo blockers during the semifinals of the Class A state tournament Friday at the Minot State University Dome.
But Red River rallied, won the game and the decisive fifth frame to complete a 25-19, 20-25, 24-26, 25-22, 15-10 classic and advance to its fourth consecutive state championship match.
"We just made really smart decisions on who to hit and where to play the ball (at the end of the match), made sure to put the ball down" said a teary Salquist, who had a tournament-record 60 assists. "We just came together more as a team than we did the other games."
The Packers, who finished the regular season fifth in the East Region, had Red River near elimination. But down two sets to one and 21-15, the Roughriders made a run.
A 7-1 surge tied the game. Then a Hadley Steffen block, a Packers error and a Steffen kill finalized Red River's revival.
"We just had to focus the kids and just tell 'em to keep working every single play," Red River coach Carolyn Olson said. "We gotta go out and earn every single point."
The Packers built another lead late in game five. With the Roughriders trailing 9-8, recent program history hung in the balance.
A loss would mean no trip to the final for the first time since 2008. No opportunity for a third championship in four years. It'd be no chance for Olson to improve on her state-record six titles. And it'd be, outside of a third-place match, the end of Steffen's stellar high school career. But Steffen wasn't fazed.
"I knew in my head that my team could pull through with each other," Steffen said. "Team chemistry, once again, is huge."
The East Region tournament champions had one last run in them. After scoring seven of the frame's final eight points, the Roughriders' ticket to the title was finally stamped.
"This is the most emotional game I've ever played," senior outside hitter Cassidy Bush said. "This is probably my greatest comeback of all time. This team is just incredible."
Steffen finished with a state tournament-record 32 kills, while Bush had 18 and senior middle blocker Kaitlin Anderson added 10.
Courtney Suppa (17), Christina Bruenjes (13), Amanda Levin (11) and Shelby Gustafson (10) all had double-digit kill totals for West Fargo. Andrea Klug had 50 assists.
The Roughriders play Bismarck Century, the top seed from the West, today at 6 p.m. for the championship. West Fargo plays Dickinson at 2 p.m. for third place.