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Cougars win third state title

5A

All season, East Lake had looked forward to getting back to the state tournament and exacting revenge against Durant, the team that knocked off the Eagles in the state semifinals last season.

It didn't happen.

Showing their resolve, the Cougars rallied to beat East Lake 16-18, 15-11, 15-9 in the Class 5A state final at the Lakeland Center. It was Durant's second straight state title and third in the past four seasons.

"I'm really proud of the way the girls came back," Cougars coach Terri Ohme said. "We were a totally different team in the last two games."

Heading into the match, Durant knew East Lake was consumed with the notion of winning. The Eagles had played 10 matches against state-ranked teams during the regular season to develop the toughness needed to finally reach the championship match. They also were further encouraged by a strong showing against Durant during a referee clinic in the summer.

But that was the preseason and it was without Danielle Herndon. The difference showed on Saturday.

After losing the first game and falling behind 6-4 in the second, the Cougars started coming back. Durant went on a 6-2 run to go ahead 11-8 and held on to win.

Durant carried that momentum into the third game and jumped ahead 7-1. East Lake made a brief rally and cut the lead to 7-5. But the Cougars were too strong, especially on defense, and scored five of the last nine points to win.

Nicole LeBlanc had 19 kills and Brittany Eukovich had 16 to lead Durant.

"We're happy with the result and, looking back on it, it was a pretty exciting match," Ohme said. "But it was torture to sit there and watch it because it was so close."

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