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Golden Valley wins classic

As the ball softly touched the floor, Katelyn Bennett collapsed to the ground.

Other Golden Valley volleyball players ran around looking for someone to hug.

Bennett just sat curled up in a ball below the net with tears falling down her face.

Bennett and her teammates had just won a Central California Conference volleyball championship in a game that won't soon be forgotten by either side.

Nearly 800 people showed up to watch GV outlast Buhach Colony 18-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 16-14 in a match that lived up to the hype.

"I just feel overwhelmed," Bennett said. "We worked so hard. It's the best feeling I've ever felt.

"Our number will be on that banner on the wall."

It was what every championship game should be as both teams slugged away at each other.

In fact, Buhach Colony (10-2 CCC, 14-2 overall) looked like it was going to run GV out of Cougar Arena early.

Megan Callahan (19 kills) and Rio Schwalbach led the way as BC cruised to a an easy Game 1 win and dominated early in the second game.

It was one point that seemed to turn around the match for Golden Valley.

With BC ahead 16-11, Gina Bandoni came up with a couple huge digs as BC's top hitters waled away at GV's defense.

Bandoni helped keep the ball in play long enough for Bennett to tip a ball over the net for a Golden Valley point.

The long rally got the Golden Valley crowd into the match. Suddenly, GV's players had life and it wasn't long before they were back in the match.

Golden Valley went on to score six straight points and eventually won the second game to tie the match.

"Buhach must have unleashed five big shots on that play," said GV coach Matt Thissen, whose improved to 11-1, 15-2.

"It was like in the movies when Rocky finally cuts Ivan Drago and realizes he could bleed.

"It was definitely a huge play for us, and Gina was a spark for us and our crowd."

The momentum shifts were fast and furious the rest of the way.

Buhach Colony regrouped quickly to take Game 3 and GV rebounded in Game 4.

"This match was just so emotionally draining," said Bennett, who finished with 11 kills and eight blocks.

"I didn't play my best, but I've never played harder."

Again, Buhach had the title in its grasp in the fifth game, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and then 13-10.

"It makes it tougher that it was so close," Callahan said. "If they would have blown us out in three games, it would be easy to say they were the better team.

"To know you were two points away, it's going to make you think."

It was two aces from Reina Sykes that helped GV climb back from the early fifth-game deficit.

GV's whole cast of characters chipped in down the stretch, as Golden Valley won six of the final seven points to win the school's seventh CCC title.

"I was running around hugging everybody," said GV setter Ali Hague. "This is something we've dreamed about and it finally happened."

18-25, 25-20, 21-25, 25-14, 16-14

At Golden Valley

BUHACH -- Kills: Megan Callahan 19; Blocks: Aly Gleason 3; Assists: Brittany Gasper 38. Digs: Rio Schwalbach 25; Aces: Gasper 4.

GOLDEN VALLEY -- Kills: Katelyn Bennett 11, Celeste Castillo 8, Kaitlin Davidson 8; Blocks: Bennett 8; Assists: Ali Hague 32; Digs: Hague 18, Davidson 16, Krista Copus 15; Aces: Reina Sykes 5.

Records: Golden Valley 11-1 CCC, 15-2 overall; Buhach Colony 10-2, 14-2.

JV -- GV 2-0; Frosh -- GV 2-0.