NORMAL, Ill. -- The Payson Seymour volleyball team had prepared all season for one goal -- to win the Class 1A state championship.
What they weren't prepared for was what to do after the final point.
Hylee Schmiedeskamp's kill proved to be the game-winner in the Indians' 25-12, 27-25 victory over Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg on Saturday morning at Redbird Arena.
The Indians finished the season with a 41-1 record, tying the best record in state history for a Class 1A school since the state went to a four-class system in 2007. They lost just three out of the 85 sets they played this season, and they kept their opponents under 20 points in a set 68 times.
It's also the first championship of any kind for Payson Seymour.
A kill from the middle by Josie Stanford made the score 26-25 in the second set and gave the Indians match point. After setter Cassie Eidson dug up a kill attempt by the Hatchets, Melina Tedrow made an over-the-head pass to Schmiedeskamp, whose kill went off the arm of Hatchets libero Mikayla Haddock and out of bounds for the winning point.
Schmiedeskamp, who had a season-high 10 kills in the game, said she had no idea her kill was the game-winner.
"I'm not going to lie. I honestly didn't know what point it was," she said. "(After the final point), I turned around and they were all on the ground, and I was like, 'Oh, I guess that means we won.' So I joined them."
Asked to describe the final point, Indians coach Teresa Loos-Tedrow said, "Really? I don't remember the last point. Tell us what happened."
"I just remember being trampled," senior middle hitter Josie Stanford said.
"All I remember is running on the court," senior outside hitter Kamryn Flesner said.
Payson Seymour dominated the first set, racing to a 6-1 lead. It used a seven-point run to go ahead 15-5, and the Hatchets never got closer than seven points again.
Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg roared back in the second set, taking a 9-3 lead on a service ace by Mackenzi Tabbert. Payson Seymour came back with 11 of the next 14 points, with a block and two kills by Josie Stanford putting the Indians on top 14-12.
The lead grew to as much as 18-15, but two kills each by Calla Roney and Megan Schlechte sparked a six-point run by the Hatchets and a timeout and by the Indians.
Asked what she told her team during the timeout, Loos-Tedrow said, "Rely on your mental (game). We've done it all season long. I know that sounds boring. Sometimes you use a timeout to catch your breath."
A service error led to a side out, and two kills by Schmiedeskamp and a hitting error by the Hatchets put Payson Seymour back in front 22-21.
A kill by setter Mackenzie Tabbert tied the score at 22, but kill by Flesner and a block by Riley Epperson gave the Indians their first match point.
The Hatchets responded with three straight points, one on a block by Maria Gentry and two on hitting errors by the Indians, and they were serving for the match at 25-24.
However, Schmiedeskamp had a kill down the line and into the corner that tied the match.
"I remember that point, because Hylee made a brilliant play," Loos-Tedrow said. "She got the ball into the corner, and that was amazing."
Stanford, who was limited to four kills in Friday's semifinal victory againt Newark, had 13 kills on 22 attempts on Saturday. She had eight kills in the second set, including a run of five straight to help Payson Seymour go from down 12-11 to ahead 16-14.
"Yesterday, there were a lot of nerves," Stanford said. "I was just overthinking everything. It's just a good thing Kamryn was there to pick me up. Today, I knew from the beginning when I woke up that it was going to be a good day. Sometimes you just have a feeling."
Melina Tedrow said the difference between this year's team and last year's team, which lost to eventual state champion West Prairie in the regional, was mental toughness.
"Last year, we coasted on our talent," she said. "We have phenomenal talent, but we secured more wins and a state championship because of the mental toughness that Coach has put us through."
The Indians don't remember the final point, but they do remember the final emotions.
"It is awesome, and I'd like to do this every single year for the rest of my life," Loos-Tedrow said.
"It feels better than I ever imagined," Stanford said. "It feels so much better."