With her team's season hanging in the balance, Modesto High senior Kaitlyn Klein took over, showing why she was recently named the Most Valuable Player of the Modesto Metro Conference.
Klein, delivering big hits all night, helped the third-seeded Panthers overcome an 11-6 deficit in the fifth and deciding game of Tuesday night's CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoff opener against No. 14 Vintage of Napa, closing out the match with a thunderous kill that completed a thrilling, 3-2 (25-19, 21-25, 25-15, 21-25, 15-13) victory at Panther Palace.
"It was definitely heart that pulled us through," said Klein. "We were so pumped up. We weren't going to let the season end tonight."
The Panthers (31-6) will host Nevada Union, which defeated Lodi 3-1 on Tuesday night, in Thursday's quarterfinals.
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"That was gut wrenching," an out-of-breath Modesto co-coach Kayla Van Duyn said with what was left of her voice. "That was definitely the most exciting match of the season so far."
Klein finished with a match-high 17 kills, including three straight to finish the two-hour marathon.
"She's our go-to player at crunch time and she really came through tonight," said Van Duyn.
"You could see it in her eyes," Modesto co-coach Gloria Magana-Gentry said of Klein. "When she's like that, look out."
Senior libero Samantha Flores, who was everywhere on the floor for the Panthers, had 31 digs, including several of the spectacular variety in the final game. Gianna Gallo had 19 assists and Michelle Couchman added four blocks for Modesto.
"We knew they could do it, it was just a matter of them believing they could do it," said Magana-Gentry.
"They came tonight. That was amazing."