DENVER -- Saturday's Class 1A state volleyball championship game between Fleming and Caliche was more than about the gold ball.
The two Logan County schools, separated by 10 miles as the crow flies, played their rubber match on the most grand of stages at the Denver Coliseum for county, northeastern Colorado and state bragging rights.
With all the other matches well over and done with, the Wildcats and Buffaloes duked it out for an hour and 40 minutes, with Fleming ultimately winning its fourth state title 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-21.
"We are 10 miles apart and we see each other all the time, and to have both of us in the state title game is a testament to that part of the state," said Fleming coach Derek Herbert, whose team split with the Buffs during the regular season. "It is a little bit more special when it is someone you know so well.
"We knew exactly what they were going to do, just like they did for us and trying to get it from each other was really awesome."
Fleming (27-3) didn't have that one standout hitter to turn to on a consistent basis and instead let an impressive defensive effort create offensive chances. McCall Etl, Rachel Frantz, Timmi Keisel and Madison Melvin among others combined to build a wall that the much more formidable hitters of Caliche had trouble getting around.
"Our game plan all year long was to be an exceptional defensive team and we spent lots and lots of time working on that," Herbert said. "(Caliche) has way more offense than we do, but we were so smart and came through with timely hits."
Said Caliche coach Jeanett Lambrecht, whose team finished 26-3 and lost in the title game to Weldon Valley last season: "And when we did get through a hole, it seemed like their defense was right there. And then we just started making some mistakes and you can't make those at this point."
After dropping the first game, Fleming settled in and was patient offensively. Keisel, a junior, was the recipient of a majority of Kaitlin Bornhoft's sets and despite a majority of the Buffs attention, still managed to find holes to pound away kills.
"We knew that they could hammer the heck out of the ball and we knew if we had the chance to beat them it would be defensively," Keisel said. "It was know use trying to match their power hitters."
And Keisel was happy that it was a familiar foe in the finals: "We know their big hitters and where they like to go and it definitely helps that we had seen them before."
Rachael Edler, Megan Pierce, Shaylyn Johnson and Sami Morgan had their chances and constantly kept the Buffs, who were in search of their first title since 2000, close -- they never trailed by four points in any one game -- but just seemed to run out of gas as the match went longer and longer.
"We came out and got a little down and we tend to do that to ourselves and then we find a way to get fired back up," Lambrecht said. "But we just could not get things going the way we wanted to."
Fleming last won a state title in 2011.