SALEM - South Range will be moving on to regionals after toppling Springfield in three games to take the Salem Division III district championship.
The Raiders won 25-23, 25-22, 25-15 to capture their first district championship.
"I feel like my girls worked hard and fought for every point," South Range coach Rachell Storm-Baker said. "They earned this."
South Range (18-8) will play at 6 p.m. next Thursday at Barberton's Division III regional tournament. The Raiders will play the winner of the Smithville Division III district tournament. Dalton plays Orrville tonight in that title game.
"This is where I would've loved to have been, and I knew we were capable," Storm-Baker said. "We just had to create an atmosphere of winning. I went to Barberton (regionals) as a player (at Crestview), and it was like a dream. This is like a dream for me too. To experience it again like this feels really good.
"I want the girls to enjoy this experience. Coming from a small town, a small school, it shows them we can make it up there."
The first two games were close throughout, with neither team able to pull away. Springfield held its biggest lead at 11-7, before the Raiders went on a 7-0 run to take their biggest lead at 14-11. Springfield led as late as 23-22 before South Range scored the final three to pick up the crucial first-game win.
"After we won the first one, we had more enthusiasm on our side, which made it easier going into the second game," South Range junior Ashley Shetter said.
In the second game, South Range went on a 5-0 run midway through the game to go up 15-9. The Tigers battled back, though, and led as late as 22-19. At that point, Storm-Baker called a timeout to get her girls back on track. After that, the Raiders rallied off the final six points to secure the win and a 2-0 lead.
Shetter said her coach's advice in the timeout was simple and straightforward.
"She just told us to focus, get our heads in the game and play like you know how," Shetter said.
Springfield coach Bill Knight said his team had plenty of chances in both games, but couldn't finish things off.
"In both the first two games, we made a couple mental mistakes, and they took advantage of that," Knight said. "That's what good teams do."
After going back-and-forth early, the Raiders took control of game three and played like a team that wanted a district title. Springfield held a 7-6 lead when South Range went on a 6-0 run, part of a 14-4 run that put the Raiders up 20-11. Springfield added a few more before the Raiders finished things off to take the title.
"It's amazing. The only team we really wanted to beat here was Springfield, and we did it," Shetter said. "It's like a dream. I still haven't processed that we're going (to regionals)."
Storm-Baker had nothing but praise for all of the girls.
"Springfield is a good team, a strong team. They're our rival, and they played us tough," she said. "Throughout the year, we've really grown as a team. We've gotten stronger through every game. Our younger players have gotten more comfortable as they've played.
"The girls stepped up. They're young, but they played with a lot of heart. What we may not have in age or height, we make up for with heart."
Springfield also has a young team, and Knight feels that his team has a bright future as well.
"We hope to be here again next year. That's our goal for next year," he said. "We expected that we could make it to districts, and this is just icing on the cake. Our girls are upset now, but there's only two schools here tonight... that's quite an accomplishment. We've been district champs four of the last five years, so they're taking it hard, but we'll be back.
"(South Range is) peaking at the right time. They're really hot right now, their confidence is way up. They've got a great team and I wish them the best at regionals."
For the night, Shetter finished with 12 kills, 13 digs, 11 points and three aces. Stevie Taylor added 10 kills, 10 digs and four points for the Raiders, while Madison Juillerat had 41 assists, 16 points, two aces and six digs and Jordan Young added 14 digs.
The Raiders know they have a big challenge in front of them, but they feel prepared for what they have to face next week in Barberton. Storm-Baker said that while the competition will be fierce, the key to keep moving on is simple.
"I just want to go there and play the same way - to play as hard and just fight for every point."
Springfield ended the season at 17-8.