At the very moment Ryan Merle's kill shot found the floor and the Skaneateles girls volleyball team had clinched the Section III Class B championship, head coach Doreen Doctor joyfully unveiled a T-Shirt she wore under her regular shirt. It read, "Champs don't stop until they get it right."
Doctor had a right to feel joyful. She had waited a long time for this moment - 12 years, to be precise, since the Lakers' last title was won in 1998.
But with a steady senior cast that showed plenty of resilience, Skaneateles completed the task, beating Cazenovia in four games in the title match Saturday at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.
At the heart of the victory was those five seniors - Merle, Emily Wood and Katherine Hill on the front line, plus Alexa Campanile and Destin VanTyle.
They had played together for four years, said Doctor, and were much better equipped to handle the pressure of a title match than they were a season ago, when Cazenovia beat them in this exact same spot.
Merle agreed. "You can't buy experience," she said. "It helps that we've been together for a long time and are so cohesive."
As usual, Skaneateles showed nice balance in this battle of Laker teams. Wood led with 14 kills, while Merle had nine kills and Hill got six kills. On the back line, VanTyle had 18 assists and Gabby Eckles claimed 15 assists.
"We don't have to depend on any one player," Doctor said. "If one of them has a tough day, the others pick it up."
None of them had to strain too much in the opening game. Taking full advantage of a long series of Cazenovia mistakes, Skaneteles rolled to a 25-12 win, but nothing else in the match would prove too easy.
Ahead 21-17 in the second game, Skaneateles saw Cazenovia storm back behind Rachel Burbidge's strong serves to tie it, 21-21. After an exchange of points, Cazenovia claimed the serve and held on to win the game, 25-23.