This was why Marcia Laidlaw returned to coach the Canastota girls volleyball team -- namely, to compete for a championship.
The Raiders' chance to claim that crown again came Saturday, in the Class B-2 finals against defending champion Mount Markham at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
And it got just about as close as anyone could to winning without actually doing so.
It took a frantic rally by the Mustangs in the fifth and final game to prevail in a first-rate contest where neither side deserved defeat -- but Mount Markham moved on to meet Marcellus for the overall Class B crown Wednesday night, also at J-D.
They had met twice in a span of eight days late in the regular season. On Jan. 10, the Raiders went to Mount Markham and won in four games, only to have the Mustangs get payback with a five-game decision on Jan. 18, Canastota's only loss of the regular season.
Now, with a championship on the line, the Raiders and Mustangs would wage another long and exciting contest.
In the first game, Canastota led through much of the early stages, as much as 20-17, before Mount Markham caught up and turned it into an exchange. At 23-23, the Mustangs broke the tie then used a kill by its star hitter, Jeana Farruggia, to pull out the game 25-23.
With the second game just as close, Canastota broke an 18-18 tie and, with Larissa Kutuzba putting away a series of great serves, earned the last seven points to win, 25-18, and square the match at one game each.
When the Raiders roared to a 12-4 lead in the third game, it looked to be taking control. But then it fell apart, a long series of mistakes that allowed Mount Markham to outscore Canastota 21-6 the rest of the way and take that game, 25-18.