Michael Dumler could probably tell you the exact time it happened.
The Mead volleyball coach always knew his team had the ability, they just hadn't put it together for whatever reason.
On a mid-October night, the Mavericks — dealing with the loss of eight seniors from its state team of the previous year — went up I-25 to play Windsor and gave the ranked Wizards all they could handle for five game despite their 6-8 record at the time.
"We pretty much started over and we had to change the lineup last match against Windsor and it worked really well. I guess we should have started this way," said Dumler two nights later after his team played arguably its best match of the year against Erie.
"When we set out that new lineup against Windsor we said, let's just take it one set at a time, that's all we can do. We get one here, we get one there and then we'll go from there. And that is what they have done and what a huge difference."
The Mavericks pushed Tri-Valley League champion Holy Family to five games shortly after, and despite the loss (that went 15-12 in the fifth), it was clear they had figured things out. They finished strong and earned the 25th overall seed in the 36 team regional tournament and a favorable draw at Air Academy.
"It started with that game and the girls sort of took to it," Dumler said. "They were open to the change and it really sparked them and rejuvenated them. The first half of the season was rough, but the way they turned it around and rode the wave was pretty incredible."
Mead stunned the host Kadets in the first game, getting a combined 41 kills from the outside hitting duo of Makayla Morton — whom Dumler called ridiculous (and that's a good thing) — and Macy Bourn.
A loss to Elizabeth, a game that started just 10 minutes after the Air Academy 5-setter, followed and after the Cardinals lost the next match to Air Academy, it set up a pair of one-game playoffs to decide who was going to state.
Mead rolled. The Mavericks, who will enter the state tournament with a 14-13 overall record — included in that was the two one set victories — outscored their opponents 50-27 and punched their return ticket to the Denver Coliseum. Morton accounted for 10 kills in the state clinching tiebreaker against the Kadets.
"Oh my gosh, that was a long day," said Dumler, who is in his first season at Mead after five in Fort Collins at Poudre. "We went in though knowing we had a shot and that we could play with these teams.
"Those last two games were everything we thought we would see from them all year long, and it all came together."
Some other names to be aware of on the Mead roster include junior setter Delaney Overlin and defensive stalwarts Sophie Smith, Bailee Irwin and Sydney Blackburn.
Play will get underway on Friday morning at 8 a.m. at the Coliseum. The Mavericks will play the third 4A match against two-time defending champion Lewis-Palmer. They will wrap up Pool 2 play on Saturday, when they face Windsor for the third time this season.
"The theme we went with for the entire second half of the season is that we have nothing to lose at this point," said Dumler, whose team is admittedly playing with house money at this point.