WENDELL — For the first time since 1972 the Snake River volleyball team will be adding a state championship trophy to the schools trophy case. The Panthers earned the title of state champions with a pair of 3-1 victories on Saturday, first taking out South Fremont 25-27, 25-22, 25-11 and 25-9 in the semi-finals and then knocking out the defending 3A state champion St. Maries Lumberjacks 17-25, 26-24, 25-22 and 26-24.
"This was our goal from the time that I started coaching these seniors in the fourth grade to win a state championship," Snake River head coach Shelli Van Orden said. "The work was worth it."
Snake River trailed in each of the first three games to the Lumberjacks but behind the strong right arm of Eden Van Orden, who knocked home 28 kills in the championship match, the Panthers were able to overcome each deficit on their way to the title.
"We came out ready to win and wanting to win," Eden Van Orden said. "All year we've been the comeback queens because we dig ourselves a hole and then come back out of it so we knew that we could do that today."
Senior setter Alexa Lund, who finished the day with 30 assists, knew just where she wanted to go with the ball come crunch time, calling upon her fellow senior at critical times down the stretch, including a four kill barrage to close out the second game, a game in which the Panthers trailed 19-23.
"Eden and I have been playing since the fourth grade together and we've been best friends since then so we've always kind of had that chemistry and when it came down to the end we got down to business and did what we knew that we could do." Lund said.
A trio of juniors also stepped up big down the stretch for the Panthers as Jocelynn Harper pounded home 16 kills, Kenzie Taylor dished out 15 assists and libero Shayla Christensen collected 13 digs on the hard hitting Lumberjacks.
In the fourth and deciding game the two teams combined for 7 ties and just 1 lead change, that coming when the Panthers took a 3-2 lead. From there the Panthers never trailed, although the Lumberjacks tried to give the Panthers a dose of the comeback magic.
With Snake River leading 24-19, the Lumberjacks battled back, tying the game at 24-24.
A huge side out, followed by a service winner by Lund sealed the deal however, as the Panthers mobbed each other on the court after the thrilling victory.
"Anything can happen in volleyball and I just had confidence in these girls that they would get that one point and seal the deal." coach Van Orden said.
"I knew that we were going to win we always seem to come out on top and our hard work always pays off," Alexa Lund said. "We just knew that we had to take what we wanted and what we had earned and this is just amazing. Eden, Luara [Thompson] and I were talking about how we've been working and dreaming about this since the fourth grade and here we are 8 years later the dream finally came true. We are on cloud nine."