During a timeout in the final set of Wednesday night's volleyball match between the Dimond Lynx and South Wolverines, after Hahni Johnson had served several straight points against a South team that hadn't scored one point, Dimond senior Gracie Schuller added a little fuel to the fire that was consuming the Wolverines.
"She said, 'I'll give you $25 if you serve till the end of the game,' " Johnson said. "It got to 20-0 and I thought, 'I'm five points away from $25.' "
Five points later, defending state champion Dimond was still undefeated in the Cook Inlet Conference and Johnson was potentially $25 richer — as of Thursday afternoon, she had yet to collect her payoff.
Johnson, a junior setter, served 24 straight points in a match at Dimond High that began with South taking a 27-25 nail-biter in the first set and ended with Dimond shutting out the Wolverines.
The fourth set of the 25-27, 25-17, 25-16, 25-0 produced flawless play by the Lynx — "no unforced errors," said coach Kim Lauwers.
"We came in strong and we really wanted to push forward," Johnson said. "We said, 'We want to go home. Let's win this.' It got to 6-0, 7-0, and we were like, 'Wow, you guys, let's keep it like this. Don't let up.' It was like we turned a switch."
A 25-0 set in a Dimond-South volleyball match is stunning. The schools have two of Alaska's strongest programs and are historically evenly matched — South owns a 35-31 edge dating back through 2007, according to maxpreps.com. Those records include best-of-5 regular-season and playoff matches and best-of-3 tournament pool-play matches.
In the last 13 years, Dimond has won seven state championships, including the last three, and South has won six. The teams have met in the CIC championship match in seven of the last eight years.
And so as their final-set lead mounted without a single sideout for South, the Lynx were a bit stunned.
"At 17 I was like, wow, it's 17-0," Johnson recalled. "This is happening."
South served first in the final set, and Dimond won the point. That put Johnson at the service line, a position she never relinquished.
Johnson said she doesn't think she has ever before served more than 10 or so points in a row. She didn't remember how many aces she served during the run, but she said there were four or five serves that resulted in free balls for the Dimond offense.
The Lynx benefited from having a strong rotation on the court when it was Johnson's turn to serve. Most critically, perhaps, senior outside hitter Alissa Pili was in the front row.
A gifted multi-sport athlete, Pili was named last year's Female Athlete of the Year by maxpreps, a national honor never before bestowed on an Alaskan. She's being heavily recruited by college basketball teams and has made official visits to USC and Pepperdine. She'll check out three more before choosing one.
Pili missed one match in order to make a campus visit, Johnson said, but she had a giant presence Wednesday. She racked up 29 kills and 29 digs and "played very smart," Lauwers said.
Also on the court for Dimond for the match's final 24 points were Madde Shockey and Danae Stokes, who were in the front row with Pili, and Reilly Plumhoff and Mia Ekstrand, who were in the back row with Johnson.
Plumhoff accounted for 27 digs, including one in the 25-0 set that was the volleyball version of a centerfielder climbing the wall for a catch that preserves a no-hitter.
"We're just always in awe of each other," said Johnson, who finished with 27 assists and 23 digs. "Reilly had a pancake dig off a dump by the South setter and we were like, oh my god Reilly, how did you get that?
"… It was a combined effort. It wasn't just the hitters or the setters."
The match ended with a Stokes attack from the right side off the South block. The victory moved Dimond — which climbed from ninth to seventh in USA Today's West Region rankings this week — to 6-0 in the CIC, 12-4 overall; South fell to 3-2, 14-2.
Both teams return to action Friday for the annual West Spiketacular, a 17-team, two-day tournament at West High. If you're in line for concessions and see Johnson, hit her up. She might have some spare change.