To get a third consecutive Section III Class B championship, the Marcellus girls volleyball team would have to undertake an immense challenge in a bracket loaded with high-caliber opponents.
And while the no. 5 seed Mustangs got through the opening round, it could not survive an epic Class B quarterfinal against no. 4 seed Cazenovia, decided in five games Saturday at Buckley Gym.
From 2000 to 2008, Marcellus won the sectional title every year except one -- in 2006, when the Cazenovia Lakers broke that string in a five-game classic where it fended off two Mustang match points in the fifth game and pulled it out.
Here, again, a team would face match point and escape -- but not finish on top.
Marcellus trailed by as many as four points in the opening game, but caught up at 16-16. They traded points, but at 20-20 the Mustangs edged out in front and went on to win 25-22 to take the early lead.
That lead vanished in the second game, when Cazenovia roared out to an 8-2 edge. Marcellus rallied to get within one, but never could get even, and by a 25-19 margin, the match was tied.
In the third game, Marcellus only led once, at 7-6. Though it stayed close for a long time, Cazenovia still won 25-20 and took a 2-1 lead in games.
The fourth game mirrored the first. Again, Marcellus fell behind as much as four points. Again, it rallied, playing some of its best volleyball of the night in the closing stretch of that game to win 25-20 and send the match to the limit.
Somehow, the fifth game topped all that came before, with no less than 14 ties and numerous lead changes. Late in the game, Marcellus led 19-16, but the Lakers answered with five straight points to take the lead back.