As they have done all season, the Lexington Lady Eagles kept pushing for improvement.
As Franklin has done, the Lady Lions just rotated in their next hero, making sure it didn't happen at their expense.
With a 25-17, 25-14, 25-21 victory at Viking Gym on Tuesday, Franklin qualified for the Class 2A Region III volleyball tournament.
"It's do or die time," Franklin coach Jessica Turner said. "I never felt like they were out of it, maybe a little bit in Game 2, but really and truly, I felt like they were in it the whole time."
But Turner said she never worried that her team would respond to Lexington's runs.
"They are very comfortable," Turner said. "They don't get too out of hand and can handle that pressure at the end of close games."
Third-ranked Franklin (35-5) will face Palestine Westwood, a 3-1 winner over New Diana, in the regional semifinals at 6 p.m. Friday at Longview Lobo Coliseum.
"It's not that sense of 'Oh my gosh, we made it,'" Turner said. "This is where we are supposed to be. This is our time. It's time to do it. With nine seniors and some underclassmen that step in and do a good job, we've got a ton of girls that are contributing to it."
Lexington, which finished second in a playoff in District 22-2A, concluded its season at 25-14. The Lady Eagles kept banging on the door in the first and third sets, but the Lady Lions never opened it despite falling behind 12-11 and 13-12 in the third.
Junior Regan Blajeski, who led Franklin with 10 kills, glanced a spike off a block to give the Lady Lions a 15-13 lead. They never lost the advantage, but Lexington closed it to 21-20 when senior Meghan Wrinkle powered through a block and Franklin committed a service error. The Lady Lions answered with Ambry DeLeon's kill and an ace from Carrie Casey to close out the set and match.
"We had a great game plan and actually carried it out," Lexington first-year coach Mel Salazar said. "They just had too many weapons. They're just strong everywhere. We couldn't stop their serve, and that hurt us in the beginning. That first ball, that first pass was always difficult, and it would throw us off."
Casey, who showed versatility hitting well from the back and front lines, finished with eight kills for Franklin, which led 10-5 in the first set before Lexington rallied to tie it at 10-10.
Wrinkle went cross court with a kill, and Karen Ross delivered a winning serve, while Franklin hitting errors also contributed to the Lady Eagles' run. Franklin later left them behind on an eight-point run for a 24-17 lead. Krista Stickney, Rachel Blackmon, Blajeski and Karly Mitchell each had a kill for Franklin during that stretch, with Mitchell also getting a point off a strong serve.
That was a recurring theme for Franklin as the Lady Lions' service game kept Lexington scrambling to set up a point.
In the runaway second set, senior libero Katie McCullough, who led the Lady Lions with 10 digs, had three aces to help built an 8-1 lead. Stickney capped the run with a kill on an overset.
Stickney and Ambry DeLeon each had seven kills for Franklin.
Senior Kristen Boettcher had four kills for Lexington.
"[Lexington] graduated several senior last year that were really strong hitters," said Salazar, who coached Bremond to the state finals in 2001. "I said we'd start at the bottom and work our way up. These girls have done amazing things."