When Osbourn Park middle hitter Monika Linden's ninth block hit the ground on the final play of Thursday's Northwestern Region volleyball semifinal, a flood of emotion came over the senior.
Not only did the point represent revenge against No. 9 Forest Park, the last team to beat the fifth-ranked Yellow Jackets, on Sept. 6, it also meant a berth in this week's Virginia AAA tournament.
"It felt so good," the giddy senior said after her team's 25-27, 25-19, 25-17, 22-25, 16-14 victory. "We pushed hard and we knew we had to end it. I was excited to put it away. That's all I wanted to do."
Osbourn Park, the top team in the state according to a coaches' poll, hadn't been tested in the 18 matches before Thursday's showdown; the Yellow Jackets (21-3) lost only one game over that span. Likewise, Forest Park (21-3) entered the match on a winning streak of its own, having won 13 in a row.
Forest Park Coach Dan Jones said that both teams had grown since their last meeting.
"Obviously they were going to be better and we were going to be better, so on that front there was nothing unexpected," Jones said. "They're a good team and we knew that coming in. They just executed better than we did."
That execution was especially apparent on offense, Jones said, where the Yellow Jackets' aggressiveness made it tough for the Bruins. Osbourn Park served for 11 aces on the night.
"We couldn't pass the ball to the net where we like to run our offense," Jones said.
Linden, who recorded nine kills to go along with her nine blocks, believes the home crowd -- the stands were packed Thursday -- also played a big part in the victory.
"I know a lot of my friends were here and a lot of everyone else's friends were here," Linden said. "To have that behind you helps that much more."
Osbourn Park played last night's region championship on the road at Colonial Forge, but a victory there would mean another home game for Osbourn Park when the state quarterfinals are played Tuesday.
"We would much rather have the beach come to us," said Yellow Jackets Coach Kate Southcott, whose team will play an Eastern Region squad on Tuesday. "A trip down there for the first round of states is really not the most desirable."
Regardless of where it plays, Osbourn Park is in no mood to let the ride end, said senior outside hitter Kat Beauvais, who led the team with 10 kills on Thursday.
Forest Park "was our hump," Beauvais said. "Now we've just got to keep going. We can't fall down, there's no way."
At left, Osbourn Park's Kerry Shannon dives for a dig as teammate Kat Beauvais moves in to back her up.