CEDAR RAPIDS – The white, black and pink sphere fell to the ground for the final time in the match and when it did, Kylie Ferguson followed. The junior from Council Bluffs St. Albert fell to her knees and buried her face in her two palms. They hid the tears that began to run down her face.
They weren’t tears of sadness, nor joy, but of pure emotion.
Three weeks ago her mother’s twin brother died. In the fifth set, during a timeout, Ferguson prayed to him, asking for the strength to led her team out of an 8-1 deficit. After looking for guidance, the team named the Saintes found a way to battle back and Ferguson tallied three of her team’s final five points to beat West Branch 3-2.
“It means, seriously it means the world,” Ferguson said. “I can’t even. I can’t even explain it. I’m speechless. I’m happy and I’m emotional in a good way and a bad way.”
The Saintes not only trailed 8-1, but were three points from having their season end at 12-5. They then closed the set on a 10-1 run to win the match.
It wasn’t the first time St. Albert finished a set strong. In all three of their wins, West Branch was five or less points away from winning. In the first, the Bears held a 24-22 advantage that morphed into a Saintes 26-24 win. In the third set, West Branch loss after leading 20-17 as St. Albert closed out the set 7-0. And then then final set, trailing 8-1 and 12-5.
“I don’t know why we like to make things interesting, it’s just our thing. It’s what we’re known for,” Ferguson said. “We give people their moneys worth. You’re not going to come and watch a blowout. We want to give you a five game, crazy win.”
It was certainly that. But it was also a shocking loss for West Branch. Its players walked through the arena after the match with blank stares on their faces, tears also running down their cheeks.
They had opportunities to win all five sets. Even when tied 2-2, the Bears built a 5-0 lead in the fifth. But like it had in the first and third, they walked off the court not believing what happened.
“It just, that’s how this game is, any kind of sport, you’ve got to get all the way to the end,” West Branch head coach Josh Luvasky said. “We couldn’t quite finish it. I thought that first game we really had control of it, take that right away and kind of the same thing we did in that fifth game, we didn’t pass and we couldn’t get into our offense.”
With the door ajar, St. Albert, like it’s done in the past, walked through.
“We’ve been called the cardiac kids before not this year, but in previous years, so I’ve got a lot of the same kids that have been that way,” St. Albert head coach Angie Lantz said. “They just know how to get it done. It’s not that they can’t do it, they just know we’re not going down without a fight.”
No Sainte fought harder than Ferguson. Wherever she got her strength from, she was determined to return to the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena for another match. Once she led her team to match point, no one else was going to touch the ball, because no one wanted it more.
“I just told Mattie, I said ‘Mattie give me the ball.’ I said ‘I’m ready to get this game done. We’re going to win. This is our game. Just give me the ball whatever way you can,’” Ferguson said. “I think everyone knew at that point I was riled up.”