When Skyview senior Amanda McDowell stepped to the service line for match point, she had one thought: Don't mess up.
McDowell's serve crossed freely and the host Skyview volleyball team survived a long, scrambling rally in which the ball cleared the net 14 times, securing a comeback victory over Seward in nonconference action Saturday.
The scores were 23-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-23 and 20-18.
"Keep the ball on the court," McDowell said of her mind-set before the deciding point. "Don't be the first one to make a mistake."
On an afternoon when there were 42 ties, 23 lead changes and 225 points played over two-plus hours, the Panthers (2-0) found a way to regroup after two sloppy opening sets.
Seward overcame a 12-7 deficit to secure Game 1.
There were seven ties and four lead changes in the opener, but Seward secured the final two points to break a 23-all tie.
The second set was the only one in which there were no ties or lead changes, with the Seahawks earning a 25-20 victory and putting themselves in position to earn a sweep.
But after sending serves long and hitting kills wide and beyond the back line during the opening two frames, Skyview found a groove.
"I said, ‘You guys are a very good team - you will be a good team this year - but you're hurting yourselves with all the mistakes," Skyview coach Sheila Kupferschmid said. "They believed me."
McDowell, who finished with 21 kills and nine blocks, spiked the ball to break a tie at 21 in Game 3. She then tallied three straight points on serve to give Skyview the victory in a set in which there were nine ties and five lead changes.
The fourth set rivaled the fifth as the most exciting.
There were ties at 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 21 and 23.
Finally, after 11 lead changes, Skyview took a 24-23 lead when a Seward player touched a Brittanie Whipple kill that appeared long and wide. Marlee
Cunningham, who finished with 18 kills and seven blocks, notched the final point, tapping the ball just over the net and into free space.
"About 10 points into the third set, we started to find a rhythm," McDowell said. "We just kept calm, kept breathing and relaxed."
Game 5 also was back and forth, with Seward coming back from a 9-5 deficit to even the score at 9. In fifth sets, the first team to 15 wins.
Skyview gained a 13-11 lead, but Seward scratched back to tie it at 14. The sides then exchanged eight more points for a yet another tie, at 18, with the Seahawks surviving eight match points.
The Panthers grabbed a 19-18 lead when a McDowell kill bounced off a Seward player and rolled out of bounds.
After the ball crossed the net 14 times on the final rally, a cluster of Seward players came up short in their bid to keep the match alive as a Skyview shot landed deep in the Seahawks corner, out of reach.
The Skyview cast praised Seward for playing strong defense.
"Really scrappy," Skyview setter Mary Hauptman said of Seward.
Added McDowell: "They are really good, really tough."
Although it was the second match of the season for Skyview, the players jumped up and down as if it were the last.
Whipple had 11 kills and five service points for the Panthers, while Holly Ransell added eight kills and a team-high 11 service points.
The biggest lead of the match for either squad was six points, an edge Seward held in Game 2.
Despite the win, Kupferschmid said Skyview has a lot to improve. The Panthers committed too many service errors and were inconsistent on kills, especially during the first two sets.
"The fundamentals weren't there. It's early and I have a whole new crew. They need to learn the system," Kupferschmid said. "But we'll take the win here at home. It's great for morale.
"It's early for us so we have a lot of work to do, but this team has heart, they have personality. A team with heart is a lot of fun to coach."