EBENSBURG - A largely pro-Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic crowd gave its boys volleyball team a warm round of applause Wednesday night, and the Marauders responded with applause of their own.
That the only thing missing from this heart-warming scene was a BG victory mattered not.
The Marauders finished their 26th and most memorable season in the sport with a 3-0 loss to Derry in a PIAA Class AA first-round playoff match at Bishop Carroll High School. The Trojans eked out a 29-27, 25-23, 25-17 victory over the District 6 champions.
"We made history this year," BG coach Bob Kasun said. "We went from, for the first time in school history, winning the District 6 championship [to states]. It's a great building block and a great tribute to the players who worked really, really hard this season. And with everyone coming back next year - we lose only one player - I think we're thinking bigger and bigger and bigger next year."
As the teams lined up to congratulate each other, the Guilfoyle fans rose as one to give their team a prolonged standing ovation. The Marauders players turned to the bleachers and returned the applause.
"A ton of our fans came to support us, and that means a lot to us," junior libero Brendan Trybus said. "That's what keeps us going every game. And without them we wouldn't have gone this far."
Derry coach Shawn Spencer knew going in his team would be in for a tough match.
"We knew coming in, from who I talked to, that they were an extraordinarily scrappy team," he said. "And we got a taste of that in the first couple of games. [But] our kids can play pretty scrappy as well. They haven't had to in a lot of matches. But tonight they were challenged and they stepped to the challenge, battled back against Bishop Guilfoyle and said, 'We're going to play as hard defensively as you do.'''
In the match's most telling statistic, the Marauders (15-5) never led by more than two points in either of the first two games.
Kasun said if either of the first two games had gone the Marauders' way it would have given them a boost in confidence.
"When one of those two [games] didn't go our way, I think it kind of knocked us down a little bit," he said. "I think if we'd have gotten one of those two [games] it would have put us over the hump a little bit."
Each of the first two games featured long rallies that were extended by brilliant digs and outstanding defensive plays.
"When you're playing a team like Derry, you have to understand how to play on their level," Kasun said. "They extended a lot of plays, and they're a quality team."
Derry (15-3) then turned a 4-3 deficit in the third game into a 14-9 lead. Kasun used his second timeout at that point, but the WPIAL runner-up Trojans retained the momentum.
"In Game 3 we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot as [often] as we did in Games 1 and 2," Spencer said. "But the kids stuck with it and found a way to win those two tight games."
All in all, Kasun said, 2013 proved to be a great learning experience.
"We understand what it's like to play in the state playoffs," he said. "And we understand now what it will take to get over the hump in a match like this."
Service points: BG-Hurd 6, Kasun 4, Rickens 4, Brumbaugh 3, Welteroth 3, Keating 1, Little 1.
Kills: BG-Brumbaugh 9, Little 9, Rickens 7; D-Vasinko 16, Wannakaker 13.
Digs: BG-Rikens 17, Welteroth 12, Brumbaugh 10, Little 9. D-Fulmer-Moffat 7.
Assists: BG-Kasun 17.
Team records: Derry 15-3, Bishop Guilfoyle 15-5.