Carter Julseth had seen this scenario unfold before.
It was around this time last year that the then-junior and the rest of the Hilton Head Island High volleyball team rallied back from an 0-2 hole to claim a win in five sets over St. James in the first round of the Class 3-A playoffs. Julseth felt the euphoria of such a win and witnessed the pain that came with the same defeat.
A year later, she and the Seahawks found themselves on the other end of such a match, as Hilton Head High squandered a 2-0 advantage before falling 3-2 to Airport on Monday night in the Lower State semifinal.
"Their momentum just grew," Julseth said as she wiped away tears. "That's kind of how we were last year. ... I knew unless something happened and we turned it around there was no way we were going to get it."
Never miss a local story.
Hilton Head High (22-7) looked as though it would cruise into its third Lower State finals appearance in five years. The Seahawks never trailed by more than two points through the first two games en route to impressive 25-11 and 25-22 wins.
But Airport rallied to claim a pivotal 25-23 victory in the third set before evening things up with a dominating 25-18 win. They then upended the top-seeded Seahawks with a 15-9 victory in the final set.
"It's a hard way to go out," sophomore Brantley Herrington said, 'because we pretty much killed them the first couple of games."
Seahawks coach Garret Talarczyk wasn't sure what exactly changed after the second set. Hilton Head High was two points away from a sweep after consecutive kills by Herrington and Sierra Davis, but watched as the Eagles claimed the final three points to extend the match a set match longer.
"We let off a little bit at the end," Talarczyk said. "Maybe it was nerves, I don't know. Maybe we got too far ahead of ourselves in the first two games.
"We looked great. We weren't missing serves. ... I don't know, maybe we played not to lose, I guess. I don't know. I don't have the answers."
Things changed from that point. The Eagles built a lead as large as 10 points in the ensuing set and cruised with relative ease before wrapping things up in the fifth and final game.
"It looked like we got nervous and we started sending free balls over," Talarczyk said. "When you're giving free balls over this far into the playoffs they're going to throw it back at us. That's what they did."
Davis and Herrington led the Seahawks with 14 and 10 kills, respectively, while Hannah Edelman tallied 19 assists and Renee Homad added 18 more. Mallory Lewis rounded out the Seahawks highlights with 11 kills and nine blocks.
"We did fall apart, I'm not going to lie," Davis said. "They played a good game. They were a good team."
The Eagles advanced to Wednesday night's Lower State final against North Myrtle Beach or Hanahan. The Seahawks, meanwhile, must wait another year to capture that elusive first state title.
"We kind of expected to go a little farther," Davis said. "We're all right. We made it to the third round, maybe next year we'll make it to the Lower State and the next year we'll make it to states. You never know."