Despite a roster chock full of underclassmen, the St. Anthony's girls volleyball team had a dynasty to protect.
And in five heart-stopping games the No. 2 Friars hung on, defeating No. 1 Kellenberg, 26-24, 20-25, 26-24, 19-25, 25-22, to win their fourth straight NSCHSAA title. St. Anthony's (14-2), which ended the season on a 14-match winning streak, came back from a 10-4 deficit in the deciding fifth set.
In Game 1, sophomore Julia Forster broke a tie at 23 to give St. Anthony's game point, but on the ensuing point, a ball that appeared to be going long was touched by a Friars player to extend the game. In extra points, Forster struck again, authoring the kill that clinched the opening game for St. Anthony's.
The Firebirds (13-3) took Game 2, only to fall again in extra points in Game 3, as a perfectly executed set from Carly Garone to Johanna Impellizeri (19 blocks) gave the Friars a 23-20 lead. Down 25-24, a wide kill attempt from Kellenberg put St. Anthony's ahead two games-to-one.
Kellenberg would answer with Kelly Byrne serving late in Game 4. Leading 22-19, she placed in the left corner that forced a weak Friars return. She extended the next point with a crucial dig from the back row.
Byrnes' clutch serving forced the seemingly inevitable Game 5 between teams who split two regular season meetings.
The two-time defending CHSAA state titleholding Friars won with five sophomores on its roster, a youth movement that paid immediate, if not unexpected, dividends.
And in the deciding game, the young guns came through and preserved a dynasty that hung in the balance.
The Friars will go for their third straight CHSAA title at St. Mary's High School near Buffalo, N.Y., on Saturday.