Even as she slept the medal stayed around her neck. Bridget Boyle wasn’t taking that bauble off for anything or anyone. So what if she was dead tired? She worked too hard and too long to have that medal looped over her head to just pull if off. No, even as she dreamed the dreams of a champion it stayed right there, resting on her chest.

She wasn’t alone. Few, if any, members of the Villa Duchesne volleyball team peeled those medals off. They couldn’t. It was too fresh—too unbelievable. They needed that reminder right there in front of them: The Saints were state champions.

Really? Did that just happen? Did we really just win state? they ask. “I didn’t believe it,” Boyle, a senior outside hitter, says. “It felt surreal. I couldn’t even describe it.”

The Saints marched to their first state championship with a 25-21, 25-22 sweep of St. Pius X Catholic High School (Kansas City) Saturday in the Class 3 finals at the Show-Me Center in Cape Girardeau. Villa Duchesne finished its season 33-5-2.

The 5-foot-10, 17-year-old Boyle knew what it looked like to win a state title. She watched her older sister, Helen, who’s now playing at LSU, win two with St. Joseph’s Academy. But actually getting to experience it for herself was beyond even what she could conjure up in her head. “It was unbelievable,” she says.

Boyle was an attack dog as an outside hitter and defensive stalwart for the Saints. She led the team in kills with 256 and second in digs with 317. And she did it all while unleashing a jump serve that gave opponents fits. She led the Saints with 39 aces.

Her biggest contribution, though, might have been the way she gracefully handled whatever challenges were presented. A senior captain, Boyle’s ability to stay cool under pressure filtered down through the whole team. “There’s not a lot that bothers Bridget,” coach Shane Weber says. “Her calmness has been a really good mentoring tool.”

Boyle provided calmness, but so did the Saints’ routine. “They are a little superstitious when it comes to their routine,” Weber says.

When Villa Duchesne went west to take part in the Truman Volleyball Tournament it found what worked. Senior middle Meg Peterson donned a head band with the Rally Squirrel. The girls had a dance party in the locker room before every match. They had a great tournament and kept dancing. “We went 17-0-1 from that point on,” Weber says.

When they were in the locker room before the state championship, Boyle says there were some quickened heart beats and a few wide eyes. But as they got together and did their pregame ritual, it gave them a sense of calm. “I think it helped calm our nerves,” Boyle says. “It helped us play like we normally do.”

Boyle, in particular, took the court with the mindset it was just a volleyball game. It was no different than when she started playing at the tender age of 9. No extra pressure, no worries, just a game with a bunch of her best friends from school. “It’s just volleyball and I’ve been playing that since I was 9,” she says. “It’s just another game.”

It’s a game she doesn’t have any future plans to play. Boyle says she might try to walk on or play intramurals. But it’s not a priority. She’s the Student Council president at Villa and is looking forward to dedicating more time to that. She doesn’t know if volleyball’s siren song will call her back sooner than later, but she’s pretty sure she’ll be doing something athletic one way or the other. “I won’t be able to stay still for too long,” she says.

And maybe one of these days she’ll get around to pulling that medal off her neck. But, for now, its home is right there on her chest.