The Notre Dame student section stormed onto the court to celebrate with the players and Bulldogs senior Shannon Brennan ran and leapt into her father's arms with excitement.
The Bulldogs earned a trip to familiar territory.
Notre Dame defeated Lutheran South 25-21, 29-27 in Saturday's Class 3 state quarterfinal that was played at a level equal to the stakes being contested.
"It's so satisfying," Notre Dame junior Kate Edwards said. "I can't even describe it. It's great. It's what you work for all season. It's awesome."
The Bulldogs found themselves behind on their home court midway through Game 1. The Lancers opened a 19-14 lead when the Bulldogs were whistled for a carry.
But all of a sudden Notre Dame kicked into gear. The Bulldogs captured 11 of the next 13 points to win the opening game.
"I just think we really got kind of settled," Notre Dame coach Tara Stroup said. "We weren't as nervous when we got going."
Brennan's serving helped spark the run. The Lancers struggled some with their passing and Notre Dame took advantage.
The Bulldogs carried that momentum into Game 2 and opened a 12-5 lead by picking up almost every shot Lutheran South tried to pound to the floor.
"I thought our setters did a good job tonight distributing the ball to different people so they didn't know we usually have one or two people who usually get all the kills," Stroup said. "A lot of people were getting chances to swing."
But the Bulldogs' lead started narrowing as the game wore on, and the Lancers grabbed their first lead at 20-19. The Bulldogs tried to avoid focusing on the mounting tension as the possibility of a third game grew greater.
"I think it's more pressure on our fans than on us," Brennan said. "I know what's on the line, but it's something you just have to block out of your mind and say, I'm going to get the next one."
"We have to just keep bringing each other up even when we get down," Notre Dame junior Amy Wibbenmeyer said. "We wanted this really bad and we just got it done."
Lutheran South earned its final game point at 27-26 before the Bulldogs slammed the door. Notre Dame evened the score at 27-27 on a serve into the net then it caught a break when a Lutheran South shot appeared to hit a Bulldogs' shoe on its way out of bounds, but the officials ruled the ball hit out of bounds and awarded the point to Notre Dame.
The Bulldogs punched their ticket to the final four when a Lancers' tip fell out of bounds, which set off the celebration.
"I was freaking out," Edwards said about the end of Game 2. "There is no way to describe what was going through my head. It was crazy."
"We kept picking up balls to the very end," Brennan said. "We just kept with it because we'd come way too far to give up now."
The Bulldogs experienced little trouble earning a spot in the quarterfinals. They dispatched St. Elizabeth 25-15, 25-4 earlier Saturday.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 9-5 lead then extended it to 16-8 by taking advantage of a number of free balls. When St. Elizabeth did manage to get a good hit, Notre Dame's defense picked it up.
The Bulldogs never allowed St. Elizabeth to get into Game 2. Brennan served three aces to get Notre Dame started then Wibbenmeyer reeled off another three aces to help the Bulldogs grab a 22-2 lead.
Edwards paced Notre Dame with eight kills, while Bradshaw added seven. Brennan finished with four kills and 13 assists.