An all too familiar scenario was taking shape, so Jill Ayers called timeout.

But Manhattan Christian’s longtime head coach chose not to discuss strategy in the huddle and kept her talk lighthearted.

The Eagles had blown a three-point lead in the fifth set to Bridger — much like they had done in Friday night’s loss to the Scouts — and fell behind 10-9. But despite weary legs in their third match of the day, the team buckled down to score six of the final eight points of the match.

When the last of those points landed on Bridger’s side of the court, Christian had pulled off the improbable. The Eagles had won three consecutive matches on Day 3 of the Class C tournament to claim the second state championship in program history Saturday at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

The Eagles (26-2) rallied past defending state champion Belt 25-21, 22-25, 24-26, 25-10, 15-12 in the consolation match to begin the day. Then they beat the Scouts 25-18, 25-8, 22-25, 25-23 in the first championship match before winning the second 25-20, 25-23, 18-25, 20-25, 15-12.

“Right now, it’s just pretty surreal. I don’t even know,” Christian’s Kiersten Van Kirk said. “Just all the feelings is crazy.”

Van Kirk, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, tallied 81 kills on the day to lead Christian to the championship. That includes a tournament-high 33 kills in the second championship match.

“It doesn’t even feel real to me. It’s so surreal. This was our goal the whole season, and I’m so excited,” junior setter Taylor DeVries, who dished out 144 assists on the day, said. “We’re just really excited we won coach’s last game for her. It’s just so surreal.”

Prior to the season, Ayers told players it would be her last after 16 years at the helm. She notched her 300th career victory against Belt and then celebrated a second championship as head coach.

“What a way to go out,” Ayers said. “This was a great bunch to go out with.”

It could have easily gone the other way. Bridger had rallied from a 9-6 deficit in the fifth set of the finale to take a 10-9 lead.

But that pivotal timeout managed to settle down the team, and following a pair of back row kills by Van Kirk, Christian was back in charge.

“We didn’t even really talk game. Just took a break, and we tried to get them all pumped up and tried to keep the smiles on their faces,” Ayers said. “Just told them this is the icing on the cake and enjoy the moment. So it was mostly let them take a breath for a minute and get back out there. No real instruction, and I think it’s what they needed.”

By then, DeVries noted the team was running on pure emotion in their 14th set of the day.

“Honestly, we had a lot of adrenaline, especially the last two games,” she said. “After we won, it was a little tiring, but it was so worth it.”

Van Kirk tallied 28 digs to lead the rally against Belt, including the match-winning kill in the fifth set. Then she added 20 kills in the first championship match.

While some slight adjustments were made from Friday’s semifinal loss, Van Kirk noted it was just a determined effort by the Eagles to persevere through three consecutive matches.

“We just kind of changed up some sets. Changing the height for the hitters,” Van Kirk said. “And then just came out and really played our hardest. We remembered all the hard work in practices and just focused on the little details.”

Emily Adkins led Bridger (32-4), which lost in the championship for a second consecutive season. The junior outside hitter finished with 45 kills and eight blocks in the two matches.

The Eagles won their first championship since 2011 and just the second in eight title appearances. DeVries noted last year’s fourth-place finish — when Christian lost to Bridger — fueled this year’s quest for the crown.

“Last year when we got fourth, we did not want to have that feeling again. We just wanted to come back and give it our all,” she said. “We all worked super hard in the offseason. We all wanted the same goal, and we all got it.”

Colton Pool can be reached at or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.