Le GRAND — While cleaning her room on Monday night, Le Grand senior Marissa Marchini found a newspaper article detailing the Bulldogs' loss in the semifinals last year.
She shared the story with her teammates on Tuesday at school and everyone agreed they didn't want to have to read another story like that this year.
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs made sure of it on Tuesday night, defeating No. 13 Vacaville Christian 25-17, 25-15, 16-25, 25-20 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 5 semifinals to become the first Le Grand team in school history to advance to a section title game.
The Bulldogs (16-6) will face No. 2 Woodland Christian Thursday at U.C. Davis at 4 p.m.
"It feels amazing right now," said junior Savanna Barnett, who led Le Grand with 14 kills and two blocks. "I didn't think we'd get this far. It's hard to put this into words."
Bulldogs coach Gia Pridell did everything she could to help motivate her players.
Pridell was the one who urged Marchini to share the newspaper story with her players. After her team lost the third game and fell behind early in the fourth game, Pridell called a timeout and again asked her team to look up at the section titles hanging on the wall of the gym.
"I asked them what's missing and they said volleyball," Pridell said. "I said we can take it there. If we win this game, we're going to the 'ship."
Pridell got contributions from all of her players. Marchini finished with 26 assists. Kinsey Haas played great in the back row against the Falcons big hitters, recording 32 digs.
After breezing through the first two games, Le Grand hit a bump in the road in game three.
Vacaville Christian finally found some rhythm. The Falcons finally made it a game as Lindsey Munar, Ari Bio and Cassi Diaz began swinging away.
Suddenly, the Falcons were back in the match after winning game three and jumping out to a 12-8 lead in the fourth game.
"I think a lot of it was just miscommunication," Le Grand's Cassandra Casanova, who finished with eight kills and eight aces. "We just had to get through it. We had to talk to each other, bring each other up."
Despite standing just 5-foot-3, Casanova made some big plays at the net and with her serve.
She helped Le Grand regain momentum. The Bulldogs battled back with a 7-1 run midway through the fourth game to take a 21-16 lead.
Vacaville Christian came roaring back to cut the lead to 22-20, but Casanova closed the match with two straight aces to set off a wild celebration.
"It was just a little bit scary," Casanova said. "I knew we had the power and confidence to do this. I love it.
"I've got the chills from the tip of my toes to the last little strand of hair on my head. This is the greatest feeling."
The Bulldogs can now set their sites at hanging their own volleyball section championship on the wall in the gym for all to look up and see.