LEROY — Brianna Puffer was in tears after the match ended.
Nicole Helsel even teared up a little bit at the lineage she's carried on.
To call it an emotional night wouldn't be much of a stretch.
Manton outlasted Lake City 25-23, 8-25, 17-25, 25-22, 15-12 to win a Division 3 district title Thursday night at Pine River High School.
It's the Rangers' first district crown since 1997 and, more importantly, sends them into regional semifinal play Tuesday at Houghton Lake High School against Beaverton. Game time is 6 p.m.
Manton went from thinking its season was certainly over to winning a five-set thriller in a span of 20 minutes.
"Honestly, I thought we were done," Puffer said. "We weren't just losing…we were losing by a lot. It was a hard turnaround but I am really happy we pulled it off.
"We were just saying we had to get back into it. We needed to work harder and we did. It's been 21 years so it's a long time coming."
That 21 years means a little more to Helsel, who was a junior on the Manton team that last won a district title, playing for her father Mike Lehman, the Rangers' longtime coach.
"It's a sentimental win, definitely," Helsel said. "A lot of people had ties to the program since that last one in 1997 and it just brings way more meaning to everybody who's been involved."
Manton came in as the favorite to win the district and, after beating Pine River on Tuesday night, started strong on Thursday.
The Rangers squeaked out game one but Lake City found another gear in game two while Manton struggled.
"We definitely got comfortable and lost some of our intensity," Helsel said. "Sometimes we forget what it took to get that first in and it wasn't easy by any means.
"Instead of hitting the accelerator, we hit the brake."
Lake City junior middle Rylie Bisballe caught fire in the second set and basically single-handedly beat the Rangers with her attack.
The Trojans against built a big lead in the third set and were up 15-5 on a block by Bisballe but Manton stemmed the tide and rallied late before Bisballe finished it with a kill.
Despite the third-set loss, Helsel said her team found some life.
"They came back in the third a little bit and we felt the momentum shift there," she said. "I do think we had some nerves, too. It was our goal to not let the game get too big so we just had to stay steady."
Lake City jumped out to a 7-1 lead in game four but the Rangers rallied to win a back-and-forth battle. The Trojans were up 22-20 on a kill by Bisballe but a kill by Manton's Jaden Wilder put her team up 23-22.
An ace by Addison Letts put the Rangers up 24-22 and they were able to finish it.
Manton countered Bisballe's attack by pushing the ball deeper and not letting the Trojans set her up as easily.
"We started pushing the ball deep and cleaning up our game," Helsel said. "That helped us get a little more comfortable again.
"Our confidence started to grow."
A Wilder kill made it 10-7 in the fifth set before Lake City rallied to tie it at 10-10. A Puffer kill pushed the lead back to 13-11 for Manton before a tip by Aysia Taylor made it 14-11 and the Rangers hung on.
It was a tough way to go out for Lake City, which has come a long way as a team since August.
"Devastating is the word to explain tonight's outcome," Lake City coach Bridgid Ardis said. "We as coaches as so very proud of how our girls have some.
"Tonight's performance was one that we have never seen before as a team. Everything we practiced was seen on the floor. Teamwork was evident as well as intensity. This is a sad way for our seniors to end but it's an end they should be proud of. Our returning players have this match to build on and we will set our goals high."
For Manton, Letts had six aces and 33 digs while Taylor had an ace, six kills and 17 digs. Puffer had an ace, 11 kills and four digs while Wilder had two aces, 11 kills and 12 digs.
Megan Moffit had an ace, two kills and 14 digs while Abby Brown dished out 23 assists, four kills and 11 digs.
Bisballe paced Lake City with 30 kills, 28 digs and three blocks while Emma Baron had 12 kills, 48 assists, 15 digs, two blocks and an ace . Brook Silvers had nine kills, 33 digs and three blocks while Rachel VanDuinen added 28 digs and two aces.
Lindsey Pylkas had 24 digs, three kills and four aces while Maddie Jimenez added five kills, 11 digs and two aces. Olivia Bellows had 14 digs and a kill.