Bishop Canevin seniors Ashley Grimm and Callie Jacobs were quite familiar with the agony of defeat -- now they know the thrill of victory.
Grimm, Jacobs and their senior teammates had experienced the disappointment of losing in a WPIAL girls volleyball championship match twice in their careers.
The Crusaders lost to Frazier in the 2010 Class A title match when Grimm and Jacobs were freshmen. The following year, the Crusaders fell short of a title berth after losing in the semifinals to eventual champion Elderton.
They returned to the championship match last season as juniors, but Bishop Canevin lost to Greensburg Central Catholic.
"We knew the feeling of losing and didn't want to have that feeling again," said Jacobs, a 5-foot-9 middle hitter and co-captain. "We knew this was our last chance and we didn't want to leave here without gold medals."
Bishop Canevin got a chance to avenge last year's loss as a rematch took place in this year's final last Saturday at Chartiers Valley High School. It wasn't easy, but the Crusaders finally came home with the title.
"It's a dream come true," said Grimm, a 5-7 outside hitter. "This is all I've wanted since I started playing volleyball. I'm so proud we finally got it."
Bishop Canevin claimed its first WPIAL title with a hard-fought 3-2 victory against the defending champions.
"My seniors have been here three times. My sophomores and juniors have been here twice," Crusaders coach Kevin Walters said. "They knew what it takes to win a title, but fell short twice. My seniors said that we wouldn't be leaving this place without a gold medal. They were determined to win."
The Class A final was the only title match to go five games. Bishop Canevin won, 25-17, in the first game, but Greensburg Central rallied to win the next two by identical scores of 25-23.
"When we fell behind, I was worried that we wouldn't be able to do it," Grimm said. "We all pulled together and stepped up our game. We just realized that we wanted it more than they did."
Jacobs had similar feelings.
"It was upsetting to fall behind," Jacobs said. "It was discouraging, not a good feeling. We just shook it off, kept our hopes up, and had faith that we were going to do it. We pushed ourselves harder and wanted to win."
That's just what the Crusaders did. They dominated game four, 25-13, then scored the final six points in a 15-9 victory in the fifth and deciding game. Grimm capped the final game victory with a pair of kills.
"I'm just so happy," said Grimm, who recorded nine kills and led the Crusaders with 34 digs. "I'm so proud of my team."
But the star of the show for Bishop Canevin was sophomore Erin Cunningham, who led the Crusaders with 19 kills and 31/2 blocks.
"Erin Cunningham is one of the best outside hitters in the WPIAL right now," Walters said. "By the time she's a senior, nobody will be able to touch her. She was the most dominant player on the court for us."
Cunningham was a starter on last year's squad, so she knew the agony of defeat.
"Confidence was the difference," Cunningham said. "This year, we were able to come back and finish what we couldn't do last year. We knew we could do it. It's an awesome feeling."
The victory was especially sweet for Walters.
"I've got three silver medals, two at Bishop Canevin and one at North Catholic," Walters said. "It feels good to finally win a gold medal."
The next goal for Bishop Canevin was to win a PIAA title. But the Crusaders' bid was short-lived. They lost to Elk County Catholic, 3-2, in Tuesday's opening-round match against the District 9 runner-up.
Hopewell and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart also qualified for the PIAA tournament. Both teams lost in the WPIAL semifinals and were designated as fourth-place finishers in their respective classes.
Hopewell had the challenging task of facing WPIAL Class AA champion Freeport in Tuesday's opening round of the state tournament and lost, 3-0.
OLSH bowed to District 6 champion Bishop Carroll, 3-0, in the opening round of the Class A tournament.