Photo: Frank C. Lauri, License: N/A, Created: 2018:10:31 19:16:26

Nanticoke Area’s Jilann Baron (6) makes a tap over the net during the District 2 Class 3A championship match against Tunkhannock at the Wilkes University Marts Center.

Photo: Frank C. Lauri, License: N/A, Created: 2018:10:31 20:53:50

Nanticoke Area celebrates after defeating Tunkhannock for the District 2 Class 3A championship.

Each time Meghan Duda drifted back behind the service line, Alyssa Lewis turned around to slap her hand.

As Duda kept winning point after point in the fourth set, the two Nanticoke Area seniors shared a laugh and a smile. It was like one of those times where the two friends kept sharing an inside joke that only they understood.

In the long run, they both knew how special this moment was going to be.

The Trojanettes ripped off seven straight points with Duda serving in the fourth set to create separation from Tunkhannock, as Nanticoke Area won its third straight District 2 Class 3A championship with a 3-1 victory at Wilkes University on Wednesday. Set scores were 25-23, 25-18, 23-25 and 25-13.

The victory propels the District 2 champ into next week’s state bracket where Nanticoke Area will play the champion from District 3.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a better feeling than this,” Lewis said. “We worked so hard all summer, and this was the ultimate goal. I’m so happy to accomplish this with my teammates and our amazing coaches.”

The momentum was squarely on Tunkhannock’s side.

The Tigers, despite trailing 2-0 in the match and 9-2 in the third set, found a way to rally. A big run on Megan Straley’s serve and three kills by Molly Goodwin erased the deficit as Tunkhannock scored three of the final four points to stun Nanticoke, 25-23 and extend the match.

Despite a large contingent of Tiger fans standing on their feet, applauding and rocking the Marts Center, nothing at that moment rattled the Trojanettes.

Instead, the girls gathered in a circle around head coach Debbie Gavin and regrouped.

“I think our passing kind of got away from us in the second and third games,” Gavin said. “We just had to pause and regroup, which we did. Our desire and want was there tonight. I think our experience paid off. We’ve been here two times before, playing at Wilkes. We knew what to expect. I’m so proud of all of them.”

Enter Duda.

With Nanticoke holding a slim, 6-5 lead in the fourth, the senior libero stepped behind the service line and ripped shots toward the back row — in almost the same exact spot.

And with the way senior Rayza Ruiz and freshman Myla Vnuk were swinging in the front row, it was like a scary nightmare for the Tigers.

When Duda stepped off the back line, the Trojanettes had a 14-5 lead and were on their way toward the district title.

“That was awesome because I did miss two serves in the first set,” Duda said. “To get all those points, it was amazing. It really brought me up. Each time, I just kept telling myself that I had to get the serve over. Alyssa kept telling me that I had this, and every serve was going to get over. We always pick each other up.”

Spikes by Ruiz — who had a match-high 16 kills — and Jilann Baron set up match point at 24-13. It was a 50-50 ball won by Vnuk at the net that clinched the 25-13 set win and district gold.

“We kept telling the team that we had to believe,” Tunkhannock head coach Karen Passarelli said. “I thought we had it back. But Nanticoke plays some great defense. We fought hard, and I’m very proud of them. We will be back next year.”

Title No. 3 wasn’t easy by any means.

Tunkhannock used a 6-0 run on Goodwin’s serve in the first set to erase a six-point deficit and grab a 17-16 lead. The Trojanettes had an answer, though, as spikes by Lewis and Vnuk sparked the team to a 25-23 victory.

It was another battle in the second set, but Lewis and Ruiz were too much. With strong serves from Lewis and consecutive kills from Ruiz on the left side of the net, Nanticoke strung together a 13-2 run to close it out, 25-18.

“This whole team, we just have an amazing relationship and so much confidence in each other,” Lewis said. “We are constantly talking and have each other’s back. That’s what makes our team so special. We are always there for each other.”

In addition to Ruiz’s 16 kills, Vnuk added 11 kills, while Lewis lined eiht to go with five aces. Tunkhannock’s Goodwin, Jena Simmons and Dana Macko combined for 23 of the team’s 27 kills.

TUNKHANNOCK23 18 25 13 — 1 NANTICOKE AREA25 25 23 25 — 3