“I’m so proud of my team,” Foran High girls volleyball coach Julie Johnson said after her sixth-seeded Lions lost to top-seeded Woodland Regional, 3-1 (25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-15), in the Class M state finals at Berlin High on Saturday, Nov. 16.

“Woodland was the better team today, no doubt. We had a lot of emotional roller-coasters during the (regular) season and that is what brought us here. I’m proud of this team getting to the finals.”

Woodland (21-1) took game one convincingly, 25-15, but Foran (16-8) made the second set a difficult one for the Hawks.

Abby Amann gave the Lions an 8-0 lead with the game’s first service, including four straight aces by the senior.

“No. 3 (Amann) was lighting us up in service and Foran never gave up,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said. “This is a great ending to a great season.”

Down by eight, Woodland’s Samantha Lee countered with a six-point stay at the stripe.

The rest of the set saw things tied seven times, with Lion libero Dani Kemp turning back the Hawk hitters. The last deadlock came at 23 on a Hawk error in the back row.

But Woodland’s Abbey Rosato earned a sideout. Class M final MVP Brianna Pacileo, who had 21 kills and 12 digs, had the decisive spike.

When asked when Pacileo added the ability to find openings with a two-handed push, Amato said:

“As recently as today. I told her she needed to find other tools in her toolbox because Foran’s defense is outstanding.”

Down in games 2-0, Foran had a choice to make.

“I think we showed our toughness in that third game,” said Johnson, who guided the team to its first final since 2000. “We came out and battled.”

Foran would take game three, but had to rally from a 10-4 deficit to do so.

Janae Owen had a hit through a block to get the side out, and the Lions kept pace until Amann returned to serve at 13-8 Woodland and put together four winners.

Fallon Bevino and Owen had winning spikes during this run, and Kelly Hunt added two more kills as the game went on to a tie at 15.

Jenna Zacarella had four straight winners, with Bryzy Gonski setting Lucy Weissauer and Bevino for points.

Jillian Gorman served Woodland to a tie at 22, but Bevino had a kill, the Hawks had a hitting error, and Hunt’s save off a block at the net led to a lifting call on Woodland and a 25-23 Lion win.

“We knew Fallon (Bevino) was going to drive them,” Amato said. “We tried to come up with something, and I believe our passing kept us in front.”

Woodland, which had lost in last year’s Class M final, saw the finish line after taking a 5-1 lead in game four.

Gonski had two straight aces to keep both team’s boisterous student sections involved. The senior setter added two more of her 12 service points to run Woodland into a timeout with Foran on top 6-5.

Owen had a win at the net, and Kemp’s pass led to a touch to open space by Hunt.

After a pair of sideouts, with Kaylee Ciolino passing the ball well, Bevino hit a booming spike to the far corner off a Zacarelli pass and Foran had a 9-8 lead and the serve.

Woodland answered with Anna Khalis’ point off a blocker before an Ashley Michie ace to tie the game at 11.

Bevino’s 12th kill of the match returned serve to the Lions, but a hitting error followed by Hannah Deegan’s five service winners gave the Hawks a 17-12.

Amann had two aces following Hunt’s sideout-earning tip to draw the Lions within 17-15. But after a sideout, Lee served out the match with seven straight winners.

“The last four years we’ve gotten to the quarterfinals, and couldn’t get over the hump,” Johnson said. “This year we got to the finals and I’m glad we did it with this team.”