They screamed, they hugged, they smiled, they cried. And they earned every last bit of it.

For the first time in school history, Norwalk is headed to the State Volleyball Tournament following Tuesday night’s spine-tingling, five-set regional final victory at North Polk.

Playing in their third consecutive Class 4A regional championship match, the 10th-ranked Warriors finally got over the hump with a resilient 23-25, 25-20, 25-22, 17-25, 15-9 win over the 8th-ranked Comets. Norwalk (26-14 overall) will now face top-ranked and unbeaten Clear Creek-Amana (45-0) in a 4A state quarterfinal at Coralville’s Xtream Arena on Monday.

Second-year Norwalk coach John Fulton says he’s very proud of how his team battled on Tuesday, adding that getting to state is the culmination of many players’ hard work over several years in building the program to where it is today. “I’m so excited for these girls, I’m so excited for the girls that played last year, I’m so excited for the girls that played the year before that, because they’re a part of this too,” Fulton said. “It’s very exciting to finally get that last win.”

Tuesday’s first three sets were highly contested and unpredictable. Norwalk led set one 23-21 following a big kill by Ava Johnson, but the Comets responded with the next four points to take an early 1-0 advantage. The Warriors trailed 20-16 in set two, then rattled off the final nine points including four kills from Ava McKay. It was deja vu in set three; this time Norwalk trailed 20-15 but surged to victory with a closing 10-2 run.

Senior Noelle Sutcliffe said of the comebacks: “We just knew what we wanted and what we were fighting for, so we just gave it our all and were disciplined and were there for each other and lifted each other up.”

Norwalk fell behind 13-4 in the fourth set, eventually pulled within five points, but lost 25-17, setting up the final “race to 15.” Following six early ties, the Warriors took the lead for good on Dakota Poen’s ace serve and Sutcliffe hammered four definitive kills as Norwalk won eight of the final nine points to close things out.

Monday’s Norwalk vs. Clear Creek-Amana match will begin at 4:00 p.m.