Hayden hoped to advance to the semifinals of the District 5 tournament in Oak Creek with an upset win over No. 2-seeded Meeker on Saturday morning.
The Tigers came out looking in need of double-espressos. Getting off to a slow start, the Tigers didn't turn on the offense until Game 3, but by that time it was too late.
Meeker won the match in three games, 25-20, 25-15, 25-21.
Hayden's eight seniors were in tears, thinking their chances of advancing to regionals had slipped by in a final performance they knew was less than their best.
But Vail Mountain School's victory over West Grand changed all that.
The win put Hayden in a three-way tie in its pool with these two schools.
Because they all shared 1-2 records, tie-breaker matches played to 25 points would decide who would take second place to Meeker in the pool and advance to play Rangely in a semi-final match.
Due to point differentials, West Grand had the bye for the first tie-breaker, which matched Hayden against Vail Mountain.
Hayden's players began connecting with one another and generated early kills from Kylee Sweetser, Emily Whiteman, Rachael Koehler and Holli Salazar to put it up, 14-8.
"The girls were loosened up and really wailed on the ball," Tigers coach Stephanie Davis said of the turn of fate that gave her girls a second chance.
Another kill from Sweetser, a second serving ace from Jeni Medvesk and a final kill from Salazar sealed a 25-17 Tigers victory.
Hayden's smooth offensive sputtered early in the second tie-breaker, giving West Grand the lead.
Four kills from Lacey Doolin and a pair of blocks by Whiteman helped the Tigers push their deficit to 21-20. Hayden held West Grand at game point for three dramatic rallies, but couldn't keep their hitters at bay, losing 25-22.
"My heart was going crazy it was unbelievable," Tigers' Lauren Frentress said of the final point series. "I wish we would've concentrated on our serves and passing more. I was nervous, everything was so intense with the big crowds and other teams watching from both sides."
While it was disappointing for the Hayden seniors to end their season on the loss, senior Jessica Martin expressed gratitude for the extra opportunity and for the winning season.
"I happy we ended the way we did, getting third in league - I never expected to be there," Martin said.