After the Wauwatosa East boys volleyball team fell to rival Wauwatosa West in late September, the Red Raiders were a frustrated bunch.
It was a clear low point in the season and one they did not want to repeat.
Sitting on the brink of elimination on Nov. 3, second-seeded Tosa East staved off match point, rallied to win the fourth set and took the decisive fifth set to advance to the WIAA state boys volleyball tournament with a 25-19, 28-30, 21-25, 27-25, 15-9 victory over top-seeded Tosa West.
"We had to push," Tosa East senior Aaron Plaisted said. "We were not going to lose to West in the last game of our senior years. It wasn't going to happen. We kept that mentality the whole way."
The Red Raiders will play in a state quarterfinal match Friday, Nov. 11, at Wisconsin Lutheran College. State matchups will be released after coaches from qualifying teams participate in a seed meeting via conference call the evening of Nov. 4.
Tosa East will be making its ninth trip to state in program history. The Red Raiders last qualified in 2014.
"We were on life support," Tosa East coach John Simon said. "When I called that timeout (trailing 24-23 in the fourth set), I just told them, 'We do this every day. It is match point. We have to have a pass, a set and terminate the rally. We practice it. If we do that, then it is a game to two (points). Can we win a game to two?'
"That's what we did. We got over the hump, and boy did we carry the momentum over into game five."
Tosa East used a 10-2 run to grab control of the first set at 17-9 on a block by junior middle Ben Miller.
A kill by senior Charlie Hutson gave the Red Raiders a 20-16 lead in the second set, but the Trojans fought back to even the score at 23-23. Senior Shane Leong gave Tosa East set point with a kill, but senior John Frank answered with a kill of his own.
Tosa East had four more set points, but kills by senior Alou Dillon and Frank and blocks by senior Tyrone Powell kept Tosa West alive.
The Trojans took a 29-28 lead on a block by Frank and won the match on a combination block by Dillon and Frank.
With the third set tied 17-17, Tosa West rattled off a 6-0 run that included two blocks and a kill from Powell to take a 23-17 lead en route to a 25-21 win.
Tosa East jumped out to a 14-8 lead in the fourth set. The Trojans scored nine of the next 12 points to pull even at 17-17. After the teams traded points to a 21-21 tie, a net violation and a hitting error gave Tosa West a 23-21 lead.
A block by Miller and a hitting error evened the set at 23-23, but a block junior Danny Belknapp left the Trojans one point away from qualifying for the state tournament for the first time since 2005.
Senior Eric Winter kept Tosa East alive with a kill that made it 24-24. After a lift call on the Trojans gave the Red Raiders set point, Dillon brought it to 25-25 with a kill. But junior Nick Stahn and Plaisted then recorded consecutive kills to end the match in favor of Tosa East at 27-25.
The Red Raiders carried momentum gained at the end of the fourth set over, as they scored the first nine points of the fifth set and cruised to a 15-9 win.
"It is a game of momentum," Tosa West coach Kyle Sikora said. "In game one, they got us. We came back and shifted momentum and took games two and three. In game four, it shifted back again. They were able to pull some points out at the end of game four.
"Our guys were awesome today. They left it all on the floor. Game five, obviously, we can't have that. We can't come out to a 9-0 deficit. But to my teams' credit, we battled back and got nine points before the game was over."
In the regular season meeting between the two teams, Tosa West turned a 1-1 match into a 3-1 win with set wins of 25-19 and 25-17.
"We were determined not to let them beat us twice on our home floor in the same season," Simon said. "The first time we played them we had 56 errors. That's ungodly. We played a lot better tonight.
"They were very, very good (in the sectional final). I'm going to give them a lot of credit. We had no answer for their middles and (junior Ronnie Haynes) on the outside. We couldn't stop them. But we fought through it."
Plaisted finished with 19 kills and three aces. Senior Joe Marx had 46 assists, senior Blake Kratzer added eight digs and Miller had eight blocks.
Tosa East advanced to the sectional final with a 3-1 victory over third-seeded Brookfield East in a sectional semifinal on Nov. 1.
The Spartans took the first set, 25-17, but the Red Raiders recovered with wins of 25-18, 25-16 and 25-12.
"We had 14 errors in the first set," Simon said. "You can't beat a good team like Brookfield East with that many errors. We cleaned that up, put a little more pressure on them and things started falling our way."
Tosa West knocked off fourth-seeded Pius XI, 25-19, 23-25, 25-21, 25-16, to move on to the sectional final.
Haynes had 12 kills, while Dillon had 11 and Frank had 10. Frank added 10 digs and three aces, Belknapp had 37 assists and Powell had five blocks.
"Every player that stepped on the court made huge plays," Sikora said. "It was a great team effort against a very strong Pius team."