For the ninth time in the last 11 seasons, the Baldwinsville girls volleyball team sits as the proud holders of a Section III championship.
But amid the ecstasy of last Wednesday night's victory over Fayetteville-Manlius in the Class AA final at Cicero-North Syracuse came a fair amount of relief from the Bees -- players, fans and coaches alike.
Rarely in this dynastic run had B'ville been tested this much in a final. Down 2-1 in games, then down 15-10 in the decisive fifth game, the Bees fought back each time to assure that the crown stayed exactly in the same place as before.
What pulled the Bees through, said senior setter Kelsey Klopfer, was an indomitable will.
"We wanted it and gave it our all, and came out on top," she said. "Even when we were behind, we knew we could take them."
"This was one of the largest tests we ever faced," said head coach Mary Jo Cerqua. "Being in the position we are in, it puts a lot of pressure on us. Everyone wants to beat us."
And F-M wanted to more than any other team. Eight and a half months ago, in the last winter-based AA championship match, the ambitious Hornets, after its first title since 1986, succumbed to the nerves of a title match -- and watched the Bees sweep them in three games.
The rematch would be far different. F-M was more mature and relaxed, and like the Bees, it had swept both of its playoff foes, so the Hornets came in with a full load of confidence, essential if anyone is to beat the Bees.
A loud and boisterous crowd at the CNS gym watched as the teams traded points throughout a tight opening game.
B'ville led at one point, 21-17, only to see F-M rally and fight off a game point to get even, 24-24. Bouncing right back, the Bees regained the serve and held on, 26-24, to grab a crucial early edge.