It takes talent and coaching to win a state volleyball championship. It also takes momentum.

Saturday’s Class AAAA state championship at White Knoll High School had all of the above, and then some. For a while it looked like the Warriors had Hillcrest’s number and seemed to be on track to end the Rams’ two-year reign as state champs. But just like that, momentum switched sides. The result was a dramatic 13-25, 21-25, 25-14, 25-16, 15-8 victory by Hillcrest.

“It was a struggle all night,” Hillcrest coach Lynn Avant said. “Wando took it to us. We were lucky to win. I don’t know why the Lord shone on us.”

It was Hillcrest’s third straight title and fifth since 2006. That title match experience had to count for something. The Warriors hadn’t been in the big game since 2008 and were hoping to end a 20-year title drought.

“We knew Wando would play better than they ever had,” Avant said. “And they did. I thought it was going to be an early night. Then we woke up.”

Hillcrest improved to 54-5 while Wando finished 47-7

Hillcrest cut the Warriors’ lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five match, but the Warriors seemed to be in good shape, jumping to a 5-1 lead in the fourth set. But Hillcrest controlled the net to force the deciding set.

Once again, Wando seemed in good shape with a 5-2 lead in the deciding set. But the Warriors couldn’t hold on.

“We jumped out to that 2-0 lead and couldn’t hold on,” Wando coach Alexis Glover said. “They took us out of our gameplan and cranked it up a notch. They were a veteran team. All of their players played here last year. For my kids, it was a new experience. I am proud of the way they played. It went five. We didn’t roll over.”

In the end, experience and momentum won out.

“They might have been a little nervous,” Avant said. “They hadn’t been here in a while. But I bet they’ll be back soon.”