East Lake coach Terry Small tried to get his team to shake off the loss and look forward. But for the Eagles, that was simply too tough to do.
After losing to Durant in the state semifinals last season, the Eagles made sure they remembered the disappointment. The way the players saw it, the only way to get that taste out of their mouths was to walk onto the court Saturday and exact revenge against the Cougars in the Class 5A final.
But East Lake left disappointed _ again.
Showing its resolve late in the match, Durant rallied to beat the Eagles 16-18, 15-11, 15-9. It was the Cougars' second straight title and third in the past four seasons.
"It was heartbreaking to have it end this way," Eagles junior Chelsea Lazar said.
Heading into the match, East Lake was confident. 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.
East Lake (25-8) also was encouraged by a strong showing against Durant (29-6) during a referee clinic in the summer.
But that was the preseason and the Cougars were without Danielle Herndon.
The difference showed Saturday.
After losing the first game and falling behind 6-4 in the second, Durant started coming back. The Cougars went on a 6-2 run to go ahead 11-8 and held on to win.
Durant carried the momentum over to 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.
"I'm really proud of the way the girls came back," Cougars coach Teri Ohme said. "We were a totally different team in the last two games.
"We're happy with the result, and, looking back on it, it was a pretty exciting match. But it was torture to sit there and watch it because it was so close."
Lazar and Kelleigh O'Neill each had 12 kills for the Eagles.
"We worked our butts off to get this far and there really was nothing else we could do tonight," East Lake senior Melissa Roberts said. "That's just how it came out. We still had a good season and went farther than any other East Lake volleyball team had gone. So we can be proud of that. But it still hurts."