The Clovis West High girls volleyball team was four points from feeling the sting of a Central Section Division I championship match loss for the second straight season.
But Lauren Meador, Danielle Lauber and Co. refused to let it happen this time.
Meador came up big to help Clovis West rally from five points down in the third set, and Lauber led the way in the decisive fifth set as the top-seeded Golden Eagles (30-5) rallied for a 23-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-20, 15-10 victory over No. 2 Centennial on Thursday.
It was Clovis West's third title in four seasons, the only loss coming in a 25-22, 25-17, 25-18 sweep by Centennial last season. The next stop is Southern California Regional play.
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"We knew we could do it and we had it in us," said Meador, a senior co-captain. "We weren't going to let it get away from us again."
Centennial (28-6) held a 21-16 lead in the third set following an Abby Campbell kill, prompting a Clovis West timeout.
Meador then caught fire, smashing three of her team-leading 20 kills down the stretch. At the same time, the Golden Hawks went cold and gave away four points. A Meador kill provided the point that kept the Golden Eagles alive.
"All we talked about in the timeout was that we couldn't play it safe," Clovis West coach Rhonda DeRuiter said. "We had to be aggressive. In that situation, it's your only option."
The Golden Eagles (30-5) stayed aggressive – and began effectively blocking Centennial's big hitters Jessie Trail and McKenna Painton – in the fourth set. Clovis West led by as many as eight points before eventually tying the match on Lisa Armendariz's kill.
With momentum on their side, the Golden Eagles never trailed in the fifth set. Lauber's kill put Clovis West ahead 5-1 early before Centennial eventually worked its way back into the set. The Golden Hawks cut the deficit to 10-9 on a Trail kill, but that's as close as they would get.
Meador had a kill and an ace, Centennial coughed up two points on errors and Lauber hammered her fifth kill of the set off a Golden Hawk for match point.
"We didn't want to feel how we felt [last season,] so we just refused to lose," said Lauber, a senior co-captain who had 14 kills. "We gave it all we had and left it all on the court. We were confident we could pull it out in five sets. We are in good condition."
Clovis West led throughout the early stages of the first two sets before letting them slip away. But that didn't take the boisterous overflow home crowd in the school's secondary gym out of the match.
"Seeing the student section still cheering and the parents still smiling when you're down two sets, that's what gets you through those moments," DeRuiter said. "They mentally played the best I have ever seen them in sets three, four and five. They were very confident in a stressful situation."
Hannah Butler, Clovis West's libero, was named a second team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. She had 32 digs Thursday.