Closure, a completing of the circle, coming home in a manner of speaking.
That's what it'll be like for Menomonee Falls girls volleyball team seniors MacKenzie Robertson and Mckenna Micech next week when the fourth-ranked Indians take on Greendale in a WIAA state quarterfinal match at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Resch Center in Green Bay.
Robertson was a freshman role player and Micech was a top junior varsity player brought up to watch in 2013, when state player of the year Simone Lee and friends led the Indians to a well-earned WIAA state title.
Senior Robertson (outside hitter), Micech (setter/opposite hitter) and many others played critical roles in Falls getting back to Green Bay after a two-year absence, as they forged an unlikely 25-23, 25-23, 25-18 sweep over Arrowhead in the WIAA sectional final Saturday, Oct. 29, in Germantown.
"You know, it's a great, great feeling to start your career in Green Bay and to be able to end it there, too," said a tearful Robertson after the match.
And like that team in 2013, these Indians believe in themselves.
"We've always known that we had the potential to go far," Micech said. "I know we're not done."
Coach J. C. Bruns, who led that 2013 Indian title squad, felt it was just a matter of time before this tight-knit team had a breakthrough.
"We'd been so close in so many tournaments this year," he said. "We just said, 'Let's win this one.'
"These kids just love to play with one another. They love to hang out with each other. It's really made for better cohesion than we've had in past years."
And that was needed this night. As Bruns has acknowledged all season, this team is full of surprises, from its parents dressing up in Halloween costumes for good luck (giant pink fairies and Hamburglers were seen in the crowd) to the short stretches where they seemed to forget they were a state-ranked team.
Such as late in both the first and second sets against Arrowhead.
Falls had a comfortable lead in the first set, only to see the long, hard-hitting Warhawks storm in front, 22-19.
But a couple of Arrowhead errors and clutch kills by junior middle hitter Rachel Murphy and Robertson helped Falls score six of the final seven points of the set to pull out the win.
Robertson's decisive tip kill just eased over the top of the net for the winner.
It was a good omen on Halloween.
The Indians were out of sorts almost all of the second set, down 22-16 and heading toward a match tie.
But again the Warhawks helped out with a couple errors. Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Guenveur also came up with a couple of big kills, as the Indians went on an 8-0 run to take a 24-23 lead. Junior setter Ciara Gilbertson served the last seven of those points, including one big ace.
After a Falls error, a block kill sealed the second set win.
"We knew time was slipping away on us," Robertson said. "So we had to do the little things. We had to put everything into it (the comeback)."
Bruns was amazed at both the rallies.
"We were out of sorts," he said, "and a lot of that was what they were doing. But all it takes is a couple of bad passes, and you can get momentum back. Once you get it, it's just a matter of keeping it."
Heart of an Indian
Senior hitter Ebun Olapo had a simpler explanation.
"We had the hearts of Falls Indians," she laughed. "We were in it to win it, and we weren't going to be denied."
They certainly weren't in the third set.
Falls went up, 3-0, and were never headed. An 8-3 run late in the match made it 23-15, and two late Arrowhead errors sealed Falls' trip back to Green Bay.
Bruns saw great improvement from Falls' four-set sectional semifinal win over rival Sussex Hamilton on Oct. 27.
"Against Hamilton, we didn't serve as well, and we didn't receive as well, but tonight, our serve was full of hard, fast-paced balls, and our receive was tough," he said. "It all helped to put them out of system."
He added that Germantown's close proximity didn't hurt in the area of home-court advantage.
"We talked about bringing in a big crowd and using it to our advantage," he said. "In the past, we've almost never had sectional finals this close (the 2013 team went to Watertown for theirs).'
After the 2013 state title, Bruns admitted the Indians would go through a bit of reloading and rebuilding. He was pleased the process didn't take as long as he thought it would.
"We were expecting some good things out of this group this year at the start of the season but not quite this," he said. "It was unexpected at the start, and because it was unexpected, it makes it sweet. A different kind of sweet."
And he's very happy for everyone on the team, especially future Air Force cadet Robertson.
"It's awesome for her; it's awesome for all the kids who have put in the work," he said. "She was the role player back then, and now she's a major player. But there are no Simone Lees on this team. Just a bunch of talented, hard-working kids."
Who, as Robertson said, "are on the road back to state."