York, PA - There they were, one final time together on the court.
On the night of Nov. 11 at Central York High School, Barb Grady, Bobbie Strausbaugh and Sammie Strausbaugh prepared for the team's final match of the evening.
The Dover girls' volleyball trio was about to finish their PIAA Class AAA quarterfinal round pool play action.
The Eagles, who had won a game each in their two prior matches, were winless on the day in terms of matches and were getting ready to face Parkland -- the District 11 champion and the top ranked team according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association.
At 0-2, the Eagles didn't have a chance to grab one of the top two spots needed to advance to the semifinal round.
For Grady and Bobbie Strausbaugh, the team's co-head coaches, and standout senior Sammie Strausbaugh, there would be no state title to cap their time together. But they did go out with a game victory over a quality opponent.
This season marked the end of the coaching careers of Grady and Bobbie Strausbaugh, who have been co-coaching for 15 years together. Grady has been with the program for 32 years, including 29 as the head coach of the varsity team.
It also brought a close to Sammie Strausbaugh's illustrious high school career. Sammie received a scholarship to Division I Jacksonville University and will begin attending the school in January.
"Since we had known all season, we had a chance to prepare ourselves, so it wasn't that emotional," Bobbie Strausbaugh said of the final night of games.
"You know you're probably going to end on a loss unless you win everything and our kids have been through that before. But, we kind of ended on a win as crazy as it may seem."
A year after losing in the state semifinals with a fine senior group that included four starters, this year's squad nearly got back to the same spot.
"We are really proud of the girls," Grady said. "They exceeded expectations. They did a great job."
This year's squad featured seven seniors, including Sammie Strausbaugh, who finished her career with a bang. She had 111 aces, 564 kills, 252 assists, 43 blocks and 206 digs in 85 games.
"It's a small campus, it's really nice," Sammie said of Jacksonville University. "I also get to play sand volleyball."
The chance to do sand volleyball in the spring and indoor volleyball in the fall was too much for the younger Strausbaugh to pass up.
"I just want to get down there (to Jacksonville) and start training and meet everyone," Sammie said. "It will be nice to get out on (May 1) and have my summer vacation start a lot earlier (than in high school)."
As the younger Strausbaugh looks to get out of high school and on to the next phase of her career, her mother will have two daughters in higher education. Bobbie's oldest daughter, Casie, who also played volleyball at Dover, is a band member at the University of Pittsburgh.
"My decision (to retire from coaching) is my kids," Bobbie Strausbaugh said. "I need to go and visit them in college and I'm undertaking more responsibility when it comes to my teaching job."
For Grady, who went to high school in suburban Philadelphia before attending and playing volleyball at East Stroudsburg University, came to Dover to be a physical education teacher via the St. Thomas Virgin Islands in 1980.
"When I got out of school, it was very difficult to find a job," said Grady, who spent two years teaching in the Virgin Islands before Dover called. "I was in my college career center when I got the call from Dover. I called my dad and asked if he had every heard of Dover and he said, 'nope.' We came up for the interview and now it's my home. I've loved my school and the people I've worked with."
Grady, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association's Hall of Fame last year, has been teaching a total of 34 years, the last 32 at Dover. She views the coaching retirement as part of the process as she winds down on her teaching career.
"I'm ready for a change," Grady said. "I'm very grateful and thankful to our school district and student athletes who we have come in contact with. It has to happen sometime.
"This is the first step to the next phase of my life. I'm trying to do it in phases."
Co-coaching can be a tough thing to do, especially with different opinions during a game situation, but Grady and Strausbaugh made it work.
"It makes it a nice experience when the person you coach with is a friend," Grady said. "We have had the same philosophy and the rules have been the same. We have had many players' parents who have been on the team. It's an honor to have coached a couple of generations."
Dover has tasted much success under Grady and Strausbaugh. The Eagles won three straight district championships from 1988-1990 and then again in 1992. In 1989, Dover finished as the state runner up.
The past two seasons, the Eagles captured the YAIAA championship and finished runner up at the district tournament.
"Barb has been in the program for the past 32 years and when you're around that long, the program kind of defines you and you define the program," Dover athletic director Rich Leathery said. "Barb and Bobbie put our volleyball program on the map and they are going to be hard shoes to fill."
The duo will never forget how they forged a coaching relationship. It actually had very little to do with volleyball.
"In 1986, when Bobbie came to Dover (to teach), I went to her door and said I need a (junior varsity) coach for volleyball," Grady said. "I used to coach basketball here and I knew her and knew that she was a good athlete and could be a good coach."
Strausbaugh, who is a math teacher at Dover, was a standout athlete at Red Lion. She went on to play volleyball and basketball at Shippensburg University and was coaching basketball at the time at Dover, but took Grady up on her offer.
"Somehow I agreed," Bobbie said.
Grady and Strausbaugh shared a lot of beliefs over the years and one of them was having the team always strive to give their best effort.
No matter if it was this season or 20 years ago, whenever the Eagles break a huddle, they yell out, 'the best.' Those two words translate to the desire for the girls to do what they're capable of, not only on the court, but also in everything they do.
"At the end of the day, we know it's a game. We are teaching kids about life lessons and are here to make them better people," Grady said. "We want them to do their best. Look inside yourself and do your best. You want them to remember how they feel when they give their best."
Being around a game for so long, the coaches have noticed changes in the sport.
"Now kids play all year long, back then, our kids played three sports," Grady said.
Strausbaugh added: "Volleyball's going to change again when girls' soccer comes to the fall. The smaller schools are going to be competing for athletes."
Grady and Strausbaugh have had the privilege of coaching their share of great players, including Bobbie's daughter, Sammie.
Sammie finished her high school career with some unbelievable stats. She compiled 330 aces, 1,689 kills, 860 assists, 221 blocks and 1,068 digs in 317 games.
"She's a once-in-a-lifetime athlete," Leathery said. "She ended her career with nearly 1,700 kills, I don't think we'll ever see that again in our lifetime. She could have played any sport and been good at it, there's no doubt in my mind."
Throughout her career, Sammie left opposing teams and coaches in awe. Whether it was a perfectly placed jump serve or a kill that sent an opponent stumbling backwards, the senior helped her team to many victories.
"Sam had an immediate impact the very first time she stepped on the floor during her freshman year and that impact never wavered for four years," her mother said.
Grady added: "She raised the level of play of all her teammates."
On the night of Nov. 14, things came full circle for the trio as Sammie officially signed her letter of intent to play at Jacksonville.
Images of teaching her daughters the game by using balloons in the living room to watching Sammie lay on floor, setting a volleyball to herself and the backyard volleyball tournaments filled Bobbie Strausbaugh's head as Sammie signed her intent letter.
"It brought closure," Bobbie Strausbaugh said. "Closure to our season, closure to her high school career and closure to our coaching careers. It wrapped it up in a nice little bow."