When the WPIAL girls volleyball championship tournament began two weeks ago, Hopewell was the only remaining defending champion.
Seneca Valley, last year's Class AAA champion, fell one win short of qualifying. And Elderton, last year's Class A champ, closed its doors after the district reorganized.
Hopewell entered the Class AA tournament as the favorite and top seed in the 21-team bracket, but fell short of defending its title after losing 3-0 to Mars in Saturday's championship match at Chartiers Valley High School.
"They played exceptionally well and we didn't play up to our expectations," Hopewell coach Terry Borkovic said. "That translates into us taking home the silver medal and they go home with the gold."
Hopewell held a 10-9 lead in the first set, but Mars scored 11 of the next 14 points to take a 20-13 lead and eventually won 25-21. Mars took charge from that point and posted victories of 25-18 and 25-17.
"That's been a problem all year," Borkovic said. "We just don't start out well. We didn't start well against Indiana [in the semifinals], and Elizabeth Forward [in the quarterfinals]. It didn't hurt us in those matches, but it did hurt in the championship match."
Hopewell was making its eighth appearance in a WPIAL title match and lost for only the second time.
"Mars had a number of good hitters and we had trouble with all of them," Borkovic said. "They were the better team today."
Hopewell made its third consecutive appearance in the PIAA Tournament on Tuesday. The Vikings swept District 6 champion Penn Cambria, 3-0, in the first round. They will play Fort LeBoeuf, the District 10 champion, Saturday in the quarterfinals.
"The only team we've played this year, that we might see down the line, is Fort LeBoeuf," Borkovic said. "We played them in a team camp and they are very good. They are well rounded. They remind me a lot of Mars. They have a number of good hitters."
Bishop Canevin suffered a similar fate in the WPIAL Class A final, which also took place Saturday at Chartiers Valley. The Crusaders earned its second title-match berth in three years, but dropped a 3-0 decision to Greensburg Central Catholic.
"We knew they were the No. 1 team," said Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Walters, referring to the fact that the Centurions were ranked No. 1 in the WPIAL all season. "We knew they had big hitters. Our defense broke down a little bit. You can't have that happen in a match of this importance."
Greensburg Central posted a 25-19 victory in the first set, then recorded back-to-back 25-21 victories in the next two sets.
"We gave it everything we had, but they were just too powerful for us," Walters said. "They played well in every phase of the game."
Bishop Canevin made its first title appearance in 2010 and was defeated by Frazier.
"Our biggest concern was their height," Bishop Canevin coach Kevin Walters said. "We had faced big teams earlier in the season, such as Montour and Gateway, but there wasn't as much at stake in those matches."
Junior Ashley Grimm recorded eight kills in the championship match, while Katie Oliverio had 15 assists and 11 digs.
The Crusaders' season came to a close Tuesday when they lost to District 9 champion Clarion, 3-0, in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.