From the start of the season, the goal never changed. The Bakersfield Christian volleyball team had its sights set on winning a section championship from the time it began practicing this summer.
That never-wavering desire to reach the top was fulfilled by the Eagles on Thursday night when they took down visiting Woodlake in four games to win the Central Section Division IV championship.
The top-seeded Eagles, who lost in the section quarterfinals a year ago, got solid contributions from up and down their youth-laden roster in beating the defending champion Tigers 25-22, 27-25, 20-25, 25-21.
Freshman outside hitter Gigi Wilkins had 11 kills and Isabella Bouma added 9 kills and 3 blocks for BCHS, which extended its winning streak to 15 while claiming its first section title since 2008.
Stormy August chipped in 9 kills and two blocks and junior setter Jayann De Hoog tallied 33 assists, 16 digs, and 3 aces for the Eagles, who were spurred on by a large and enthusiastic crowd at the BCHS gym.
"It feels amazing because we've been working for this all year," BCHS sophomore middle blocker Sonia Visser said. "And all of the muscle that we've built this year has finally paid off, and all the hard work that we've done has led up to this moment and it feels so good to finally win it."
The Eagles came out strong and led early on in all four games, but each time struggled to put away a determined Woodlake team that came into the night having lost only 12 sets all year.
After three hard-fought games, BCHS finally buried the Tigers permanently, when it pulled ahead for good in the fourth set, 6-5, on a Wilkins kill.
"It feels fantastic," BCHS coach Mystie Goodban said. "We've been working for this since Aug. 5. Our goal has been to be playing tonight and to win tonight. And to have everything that we've been working for happen is beyond what I can express."
The section title is the first for Goodban as a coach. She won one in 2004 as a player for Stockdale.
Kianna Cunningham registered 16 kills and 6 blocks and Melissa Samaniego had 14 kills, 5 blocks, and 3 aces for Woodlake, which had its 18-match winning streak snapped.
"It's just like Bakersfield Christian came out strong and we didn't make our adjustments fast enough," Woodlake coach Victoria Johnson said. "We didn't have enough ball control to be successful tonight."
Tied at 22, BCHS closed out the first game on a 3-0 run that was started by a perfectly placed back-row kill into the far corner by Phoebe Graham.
The Eagles led the second set by as many as eight points before Tigers rallied to tie it at 25. But back-to-back Woodlake miscues allowed BCHS to take the game.
Late in the second set the Eagles lost arguably their top-defender, Hadley DeQuillettes, to a leg injury.
The junior libero had to be helped from the court and didn't return to action for the rest of the night.
Her absence was immediately felt as the BCHS defense, which had been extremely stout up to that point, struggled during the third game.
Woodlake took advantage, finding the soft spots in Eagles' weakened defense to score 8 of the final 10 points in Game 3.
"Winning the first two games was really important," De Hoog said. "Once our libero went down it was really hard but we stayed focused and got the fourth game."
After clinching the win, BCHS team celebrated on the court with many its fans.
The a scene was not an unfamiliar one to BCHS, which won three section championships between 2005 and 2008 and a state title in 2006.