Here was the chance the Vernon Verona Sherrill boys volleyball team pined for -- to win a Section III Class B championship against an opponent it had just beaten three weeks earlier.
However, Living Word Academy turned things around in the season's most important match, the Lions taking just three games to sweep the Red Devils and earn the title Thursday night at Oneida High School's gymnasium.
All told, VVS and Living Word had met three times in the regular season. The last match, on Feb. 11, was a four-game victory for the Red Devils, and while it gave VVS confidence, it also gave the Lions extra motivation when the two sides would meet once more.
In the opening game, VVS had a brief 5-3 edge. That disappeared, though, when Living Word put together an 8-1 run and never got caught again, taking that game 25-16.
Moving to the second game, the Red Devils were behind all the way. Twice, it pulled within two points, 9-7 and 11-9, and it was 18-15 before the Lions used its front-line power to close on a big spurt and win again 25-16.
Trying to keep the match going, VVS (who finished 14-4 on the season) took a 6-3 lead in the third game, and though Living Word again rallied, VVS was real close, 17-16, before a trademark Lions spurt, this one 8-1, all but clinched the championship, the final score being 25-21.
In defeat, Cole Barbano had 13 assists, while Andrew Origami helped out with 17 digs and Kyle Voelker had eight digs. Up front, Tyler Curtis had five kills and five blocks, while Drew Foster picked up three kills and two blocks.
For the victorious Lions (12-2), Isaac Virag had 21 kills and eight blocks, with Deng Gai adding 15 kills and four blocks and newcomer Josiah Bosco (not a big factor in previous meetings) had eight kills and five blocks. Sam Bender fed them all with 40 assists.