There are comebacks, and then there are can't-sit-down, heart-pounding thrillers like what Frontier pulled off in Game 4 of a volleyball playoff match against host Centennial on Thursday.
But Golden Hawks senior Abby Campbell did the Titans one better: It was Campbell, thought to be out for the season with a knee injury just two weeks ago, who spiked a ball on the line to end Centennial's thrilling 25-20, 23-25, 25-19, 27-29, 15-11 victory, sending the Golden Hawks to the Central Section Division I semifinals next week at No. 1 seed Liberty.
"They thought I was done -- I thought I was done, for the season," said Campbell, who landed awkwardly on her left knee during practice and was told she likely had torn cartilage before an MRI revealed it was only a strain. "It's amazing. You never realize how much love you have for the game until you physically can't play it."
And what fun it was Thursday, when No. 4 seed Centennial (21-10) squandered six match points in Game 4 before No. 5 Frontier (28-8) evened the match at two games each with two kills from senior Krista Rymer, who finished with a whopping 34 kills.
The Titans rode that wave of momentum to a 4-1 lead in Game 5, but Centennial scored the next three, then won four in a row to make the score 11-7. When the Golden Hawks had a chance to end the match for a seventh time, Campbell made sure that was that.
"I have no idea how we did it," Centennial coach Brooke Roberts said. "It was pretty magical. I guess it's that 'never-say-die' attitude. But Frontier had the same mindset, and they proved it in Game 4."
McKenna Painton was Centennial's answer for Rymer. She finished with 22 kills, 33 digs and three blocks, though the Hawks got contributions from everywhere. Savannah Smith had 18 kills, and Campbell and Cassidy George, who also had six blocks, each had 16 kills. Those totals came on the wings of 70 assists from Tori Smith.
For Frontier, Rymer added 22 digs, Hannah Henriksen had 17 kills and Sarah Harvey (30 digs) and Torie Poulton (25) anchored the back row. But Centennial answered with 48 digs from Maddie Black and 21 from Courtney Yanez.
"Centennial played great defense tonight," Frontier coach Amy Parker said. "It was tough to put the ball on the floor."
Still, Frontier nearly did it enough -- but then saw its season end in a back-and-forth Game 5 that gave Centennial its fourth win over Frontier this year. The Titans lost just four other times combined.
"The girls were upset because we lost, but we can't be disappointed in our effort," Parker said. "We lost three of the four matches by a combined nine points. It's just a battle. You can joke about how teams seem to have their best matches against you, but I think it's true that this brought out the best in both teams."