Each time St. Margaret's scored, the Mustangs answered to maintain their cushion. Finally, at match point, they showed a fake front and Cameron passed to Bernard, who came soaring from the back line, crushing a shot that ricocheted off a defender and fell to the floor.
The Salesian players dog-piled on the court as Bernard raised his arms and hollered. In the stands, the normally raucous Bella Fernandez could not manage a peep.
"I couldn't breathe," she said. "I couldn't stop crying."
Even a disappointed Kiraly appreciated the moment, saying later: "I like to see volleyball grow and thrive in areas where you might not expect it."
Two weeks passed before the Mustangs reconvened on campus, several players stopping by an office where their championship plaque lay on the table. They took turns picking it up, some kissing it, others running their fingers across the lettering. Erwin used his sleeve to rub away the smudges.
"We had so much to prove," he said.
Walker wanted more, wanted his players to grasp the wisdom they had gained along the way. Perseverance and camaraderie, things like that. Aaron said he learned to always be on time for his job at an ice cream shop.
School was out for the summer and a warm night beckoned. With almost two months before the next club match, the team had earned a break, but no one left early.
The Mustangs walked back across the courtyard to the gym for the start of another long practice, scrambling and diving for every ball. All those rubber-soled shoes scuffled across the hardwood, a squeaky kind of music echoing off the walls.