They sat in the hospitality room of the University of Nebraska-Omaha gym, removed from the celebration that was in full swing a short distance away.
Anna Garcia, Sue Darcey and Angela Brinton of the Cal State Northridge volleyball team had been in similar situations before. Too often, in fact.
For the past three seasons, the Lady Matadors had advanced to the NCAA Division II championship match, only to lose and leave players huddled together trying to explain why.
But not this time. This time, the celebration was in their honor. This time they were explaining why, and how, they had won.
They could have just pointed to each other.
Brinton, the Division II player of the year, led Northridge in assists in its Final Four wins over Ferris State and Central-Missouri State. The senior setter served eight consecutive points in the first game of the title match against Central-Missouri. With the score tied, 14-14, in the second game, she served the final two points for the victory.
While Brinton's play was typically consistent and reliable, Garcia and Darcey were spectacular. Darcey, who made the all-tournament team along with Brinton and Garcia, had 21 kills against Ferris State. Garcia had 23 kills in the title match.
So dominant was Darcey's play in the semifinal it left Central-Missouri Coach Peggy Martin a little perplexed.
"We're not going to stop her," Martin said. "We just hope to slow her down a little bit."
But there was no slowing Garcia, who was at the top of her game in the title match. "This win was so sweet," Garcia said. Perhaps especially so because she had played so poorly in last season's championship.
Both Brinton and Martin said it was CSUN's experience in title matches that made the difference.
"This was a battle of senior versus senior and experience against experience," Brinton said. "I think we just wanted it a little more."
The play of freshmen Kathleen Dixon and Connie Noe was also important for Northridge. Dixon, another member of the all-tournament team, served the match point after Noe had given the Lady Matadors the lead.
Northridge has won three championships in the past eight years. The Lady Matadors also won titles in 1980 and 1983.
The Lady Matadors won their fifth consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Assn. title this season and were undefeated in conference games for the third season in a row.
Northridge will lose five seniors from its championship team, including two-time All-Americans Brinton and Darcey. Garcia, a two-time All-CCAA selection, Kristin Choate and Karen Suppan also have completed their eligibility.