Win or lose, both teams were heading to the Lancaster-Lebanon League playoffs.
But, going in as a section champ surely makes the trip even sweeter.
With the Section Two girls volleyball title on the line Wednesday night in New Holland, Garden Spot rose to the occasion and left no doubt.
The Spartans downed Elizabethtown 3-1, breaking the teams’ tie atop the section.
By virtue of the section crown, the Spartans (11-1 Section Two, 14-2 overall) will face Octorara, the No. 2 team from Section Three, Friday night at 5:30 in a quarterfinal match at Hempfield.
“It’s awesome,” first-year Garden Spot coach Lauren DiPiano said. “These girls have worked their butts off to earn this. Coming in as a new coach, they had to buy in to my system.”
The Spartans set the tone early, jumping out to a 16-9 lead in the first game before cruising to a decisive 25-15 win.
In game two, the Bears (10-2, 12-3) led 19-13 before the Spartans mounted a stunning comeback. Spot scored 12 of the next 14 points, including the final eight, and won 25-21 to move within a game of a sweep.
“It puts more pressure on us to finish the job, and all season we’ve had trouble with that,” DiPiano said. “It was awesome to see the girls pull it out. I told them to break it down into small games of five and I think we did that and won consistently.”
The Spartans led the third 11-8, but Elizabethtown reeled off seven straight points for a 15-11 lead. Eventually, the Spartans tied it at 22-22, but the Bears took the final three points, and the do-or-die game, 25-22.
Still looking to close out the match, Garden Spot took a 17-9 lead in the fourth, only to see the Bears storm back with a 10-0 run, giving them a 19-17 advantage.
Tied 23-23, the Spartans exploded for the final two points — and the section title.
“I think we play best when we play as a team,” DiPiano said. “I think they're starting to figure that out, which is fun to see. Everyone contributed tonight.”
Elyse Mundorff had 11 kills, while Olivia Usner had 15 digs and Abby O’Neill recorded 44 assists for the Spartans, who won their final 11 L-L matches after dropping the first to Ephrata on Sept. 3.
“It kind of puts a little target on our back, so we have to be ready to rise to that challenge,” DiPiano said. “We have to be ready for teams to want to beat us, especially with being so up and down this season, people think they can take games from us, so we need to show them otherwise.”
Sydney Stewart led the Bears with 15 kills, while Ashley Nyesmith had 12 digs and Hayden Calaman finished with 32 assists.
As section runner-up, Elizabethtown will meet the still to be determined Section One runner-up at 5:30 p.m. Friday in a quarterfinal match at Lancaster Catholic.