Tessa Traynham tipped the ball, it fell on Great Falls’ side of the court and she buried her face into her hands.

Bozeman’s players leapt up and down. They screamed in unison. Their fans joined them on the court. The Hawks’ season will last another week.

The two teams traded blows in the fifth set. Bozeman landed three more.

After shaking hands, members of the student section high-fived their peers. After the ups and downs of the season and of Thursday’s match, Bozeman unleashed all its emotions at once.

“That was probably the most intense volleyball match I’ve ever played,” senior Sasha Hathaway said.

“It was insane,” senior Emma Fox said.

“Terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time,” head coach Ashley Obstar said.

The East No. 4 seed Hawks (13-13) took down East No. 5 Great Falls 25-20, 16-25, 25-13, 19-25, 15-12, on Thursday at South Gym in a heart-stopping playoff match that determined a berth in next week’s Class AA tournament.

Bozeman tried not to think about what was at stake. Obstar told players to pretend it was a scrimmage. But the roars of the crowd and the intensity inside the gym made it clear it wasn’t.

“If you think of, ‘Holy crap, if we lose, we don’t go to state,’ that’s not healthy,” Obstar said. “We really just tried to reframe it to the point there’s less pressure.”

Leading up to the match, Obstar implemented a team-wide rule that no one was allowed to talk about the state tournament until after Thursday. She wanted her team focused singularly on the upcoming playoff game.

Since the end of the regular season, the group used practice time training to think positively while competing. As the match swung back and forth, from a lackluster second set to a dominant third to more inconsistency in the fourth, the Hawks remembered their preparation.

“Deep down inside, I was like, ‘OK, I know we can do it. I know we can pull through,’” Fox said.

Early in the fifth set, clinging to a 5-3 lead, Bozeman broke its huddle by yelling, “Keep pushing.” Great Falls used a timeout to foil the Hawks’ advantage.

Out of the stoppage, Fox and Hathaway each dug balls to keep the point alive, and Izzy Isley eventually spiked it onto the Bison’s side. The lead was up to three. But the two teams battled, and Bozeman’s edge never increased to more until reaching the brink of winning the match.

Hathaway notched another kill to put the Hawks up four. She swung her arms, then lifted them in the air and screamed, “Let’s go.”

She put Bozeman up five on the next point, jumped around, high-fived teammates and soaked in the moment. Red in the face, with adrenaline flowing, Hathaway lifted the Hawks. So Fox kept passing her the ball.

After a kill by Great Falls, Hathaway received another pass and did damage again. The crowd went into a frenzy, pounding the bleachers and celebrating. Bozeman was one point away.

“When I’m not hitting well, I’m thinking too much about everything,” Hathaway said. “That fifth set, my mind was just clear. I wasn’t having any distractions. I just hit the ball.”

Prior to that, the Hawks won the first set, but trailed 13-1 to start the second. Obstar subbed in Jenavieve Lynch, who suffered an injury in the season’s first game and wasn’t cleared to return until Monday. Teammates stood up off the bench and cheered her appearance. Wearing a bulky brace on her right knee, Lynch bumped the ball and Bozeman scored. Though the Hawks lost the set, they closed on a 15-12 run.

Bozeman won the first seven points of the third set and again showed its full capabilities. But the match flipped back toward the Bison in the fourth when the visitors won nine of the first 10 points. The Hawks tussled back, tying the set at 15 on an ace by Fox. Obstar yelled, “Yes, Emma.” But Great Falls went on to win the frame anyway.

“Deep breaths. That is all I can say,” Obstar said when asked how she stays composed. “Deep breaths and strategy, because like I said, it was terrifying at times and you can’t show that.”

The four preceding sets caused the showdown in the fifth. With the match on the line, Bozeman executed better, just barely.

Fox, Hathaway and junior Jo Jo Radick, three of the Hawks’ most reliable players, all served in the fifth. Obstar said their aggressive approach was the difference.

Earlier in the year, Bozeman took on Great Falls and lost in five sets. But that match didn’t determine the outcome of their season. This one did. And the Hawks survived.

“I’m so proud of overcoming everything we’ve been through this season,” Hathaway said, “and just being able to have one more last week of volleyball.”

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.