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LINCOLN -- Meridian forced a fourth set against Johnson-Brock and were two points away from forcing a fifth set, but the Eagles were able to hold off the Mustangs for their third consecutive state championship.

Johnson-Brock won 25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23 over Meridian Saturday at the Bob Devaney Sports Center.

It's the second consecutive year the Mustangs have finished runner-up to Johnson-Brock.

Meridian coach Bob VanWesten said he was much happier with the way his team played against Johnson-Brock compared to the previous two times this season.

"We did what we wanted, but when you are playing a team of that level, it takes a little extra," VanWesten said. "I was happy with our attack. (Johnson-Brock) is always going to put up a big block and we went off hands and down line, which was what we wanted to do and for the most part, we got the job done there."

Meridian got off to a great start in the first set, but let a 21-17 lead slip away late.

"Letting that first set get away really hurt, but at least we knew we could play with them," VanWesten said. "If we could have held them off, who knows, but they can make some runs on you and when they get rolling, they are tough."

In the second set, Johnson-Brock took control midway through the set and never relinquished it, eventually winning 25-17.

Meridian built a 22-17 lead in the third set. Johnson-Brock crawled to within two at 22-20, but Meridian held them off to force the fourth set.

The Mustangs led early on in the fourth set, but Johnson-Brock would eventually even the score at 16-16. After that, neither team could built a lead bigger than one until the Mustangs went up 23-21.

Johnson-Brock rallied for four straight points, though, to win 25-21 and capture the championship 3-1.

"When (Johnson-Brock) really needed it, they were able to really dig down and get four or five points in a row," VanWesten said. "We did a really good job of staying in it close, and maybe a few breaks at the end is what we needed, but we didn't get them. I'm still really proud of them."

VanWesten was proud of how his team battled back and got a win after falling behind 2-0. They had only been down 2-0 twice this season -- both to Johnson-Brock.

"We knew we had the fight in us," VanWesten said. "Those last two sets, we just played our hearts out and played loose. The girls were relaxed and went after it and just needed a play here or there to make the difference."

Halle Pribyl had 21 kills for the Mustangs while Rylee Pieper had 15 kills, Josiee Sobotka had six kills, Hailey Schafer and Lauren DeLord had four kills each and Jaicee Sobotka had one kill. Erin Johnson had 39 assists.

Pieper said they left it all out on the court and gave it their best shot.

"We played a hard fought five set match yesterday that could have gone either way and I just wanted to make it back to the state championship," Pieper said. "We played our hearts out and I feel like there's nothing to be upset about. We showed them what we're made of and they are going to remember Meridian."

Pribyl, just a sophomore, said she'd never forget the experience of playing at state with this group of seniors.

"I knew we had to play our hearts out because this was my last match with these girls," said an emotional Pribyl. "Next year, it's going to be different and I'm going to miss it a lot."

Josiee Sobotka had three ace serves while Jaicee Sobotka had two aces. Lauren DeLord had four blocks while Pribyl and Johnson had three blocks each and Hailey Schafer had two blocks. Johnson had 21 digs.

Meridian's finishes the season with a 31-3 record. All three of their losses came to Johnson-Brock.

It was the final match for seven seniors, including Erin Johnson, Rylee Pieper, Hailey Schafer, Lauren DeLord, Jaicee Sobotka, Adeline Beals and Breanna Miller. VanWesten said this group has left their mark at Meridian High School.

"It has been special," VanWesten said. "Three of them started as freshmen and the rest were in there playing as sophomores. It's been a lot of games with the same girls. They have great attitudes and are great kids. They always came to practice ready to work and I've never had a problem with them -- A great bunch of girls."


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