It wasn't easy, and at times, Balboa High School was its own worst enemy. In the end, though, the Buccaneers girls' volleyball team earned the opportunity to play for a city championship.
Balboa advanced to the San Francisco Section-Academic Athletic Association title match with a hard-fought 25-11, 17-25, 27-25, 17-25, 15-8 win against Washington on Tuesday.
Tatiana Jimenez led the Bucs with 13 kills.
Balboa moves into the title game Friday night at Kezar Pavilion where it will take on Lowell, which beat Lincoln in the other semifinal.
"Going into that fifth set, we were a little stressed out there, a little tight," Balboa coach Val Cubales said. "I just told them to go out there and have fun, play with no worries."
The turning point in the match came in the third set, with Washington clinging to a 24-23 lead and serving for the game.
Jimenez seemed to hit a ball out of bounds, which would have given Washington the game. However, the Bucs contested the call and the referees overturned the call, giving the Bucs the point. Balboa quickly ended the set with three straight kills from Yvonne Faasavalu, turning the entire match around.
The call didn't sit well with Washington coach Sharon Cheng.
"It's tough, and it's an emotional roller coaster to see a call switched like that," Cheng said. "That's a big momentum swing right there."
It didn't seem to impact the Eagles as they rolled in the fourth game, going on a 11-2 run to go up comfortably 23-14 before eventually winning the set 25-17.
But the Eagles couldn't muster enough energy to pull the upset, as Balboa jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the fifth game. Balboa eventually outlasted Washington as Jimenez clinched the Buccaneers' berth in the championship match.
"We fought hard and I couldn't be prouder of this team," Cheng said. "We left everything out on the court, and we tried so hard, but sometimes you just come up a little short."
Cubales, who coached Balboa to its first championship in school history in 2011, believes his team won't have any big-game jitters.
"We'll be ready, and we won't be as nervous and tight as were tonight," Cubales said. "We'll have a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C ready Friday night."