Mariana Valencia and the rest of her Northwestern girls' volleyball team came into Monday's match with Jim Thorpe not really knowing how important of a night it really was.
With two matches left on their regular season schedule, the Tigers needed to win one or the other to qualify for the District 11 Class AA Girls' Volleyball Tournament. Their last match is against Colonial League front-runner Southern Lehigh.
"We didn't know we needed this one until our coach told us before the game," Valencia said. "As soon as she told us that, we definitely fought our hardest out there on the court. We wanted it more than ever."
Jim Thorpe was also in the same situation as far as making the District playoffs needing to win one of their last three games.
After the Tigers took a hard-fought first game and the Olympians rebounded to escape with the second game, it was Northwestern who dug deep within itself to win the next two and pulled away with a 25-22, 16-25, 25-15, 25-14 victory.
After watching the Tigers let the second game clearly slip out of their grasp, first-year Northwestern head coach Amilee Schillinger finally saw what she wanted to see in her team. The Tigers grabbed the moment and sealed their second straight district berth for a program only in its second year of existence.
"I have been saying all season that it takes a team to play and they all stepped up as a team," Schillinger said. "They had their ups and downs in this match, but they came together as a team and won that game.
"I think that (losing the second game) kind of put them in place that, 'You know what, we actually need to win these last few games to go to districts. This is what it's going to come down to ... team work, nothing drops on the floor, talking out loud,' so, they pulled through. They did what they had to do."
After the teams split the first two games, the Tigers' front line took over in game three. In the fourth and decisive game, it turned out to be the Tigers' serving, as Valencia went on to score four aces and teammate Makayla Clymer added another, to spark the Tigers to victory and ruin the chances for head coach Erin Kuhn's Olympians squad.
"We went flat. Big time," Kuhn said. "They just couldn't get it together. I really don't know what happened. I mean I told them before it's their confidence. We have had a problem with it all season. So, I think it's going to be a little bit tougher now to get it back to where we need it.
"If they want it, they will certainly be able to do it. But, they need to get it together and put their heart on the court and play with passion if they want it."
While Northwestern got the job done when it needed to, Jim Thorpe controls its own destiny for the postseason. The Olympians need a victory against either Schuylkill Haven (3-8 in league play) and Pottsville (11-0 in league play).