It wasn't so much a wake-up call.
More like a wake-up sledgehammer to the head.
In one night of futility, Eudora High's volleyball team saw all its lofty goals for the 2005 season - 30 victories before the Class 4A sub-state tournament, 40 victories for the season, a return trip to state - flash before its eyes.
When the Cardinals walked off the Ottawa High gymnasium floor following a Frontier League quadrangular Sept. 13, they did so wearing the unthinkable - an 0-3 collar.
That wasn't supposed to happen to the team ranked No. 3 in the state by the Kansas Volleyball Assn. in its Class 4A preseason poll. It left even the most seasoned of players unsure what to think before again setting foot on the court.
"Personally, I've never lost three games in one night," said Eudora senior Kelsey Epperson, a four-year starter at setter, the glue that holds the Cardinals together. "I didn't really know what to expect coming into practice. I didn't know what coach was going to say, what she was going to do, how my teammates were going to react.
"We don't like to talk about that night."
Except to acknowledge that it probably saved Eudora's season.
Bumped from the rankings and freshly reminded of coach Jill Stutler's proclamation at the start of fall camp that they had better get used to having a bull's-eye on their collective back, the Cardinals immediately set about regaining their motivation.
The result has been headache after headache for the unfortunate opponents that followed that dark September night on the Eudora schedule.
The Cardinals enter Saturday's eight-team sub-state tournament at Tonganoxie with the No. 1 seed and a 35-4 record. For those keeping score, that's one loss - to Rossville in the finals of the De Soto Spikefest on Oct. 8 - in the last five weeks.
"When they play well, they're an absolutely incredible team to watch," said Stutler, in her fifth year at the Eudora helm. "When that happens, the energy on the court by far surpasses anything that we've seen out of our program in a while."
Stutler has counted on a core of seven players to put the Cardinals in this position. Just two - Epperson and fellow co-captain Carrie Lister, who plays on the right side - are seniors. The remainder of the rotation: two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman.
Such a blend of experience and youth figures to be the perfect formula to allow Eudora to remain a player on the state volleyball scene for years to come.
But first things first.
One goal has already been accomplished for 2005, two more await, and neither can be accomplished without the other.
Eudora must win three times Saturday to make a return trip to the state tournament, then advance to the Class 4A title game to win 40.
And like the faith-testing matches that immediately followed a disappointing night in September, failure is not an option.
"It would be so disappointing knowing that I went my junior year and then stepped down a level," Epperson said. "But I have all the confidence in the world that this team can make it."