Everything went to script … except the ending.
For the third consecutive match, Red Lion dropped its first two games.
But this time, there would be no miracle comeback.
Instead of ratcheting up the intensity for another five-game win, Red Lion found itself against an opponent that managed to dig every hit and put a hand on every blast Red Lion uncorked. Garnet Valley ended Red Lion's magical season with a 25-21, 25-19, 25-14 victory in the opening round of the PIAA Class 4A girls' volleyball tournament.
Red Lion had been an uncanny 8-0 in five-game matches this season, including a win against Hempfield to earn the program's first District 3 championship.
But after falling behind 2-0 yet again Tuesday at Central York, Red Lion found it impossible to rally against Garnet Valley.
"I can't lower my head ... this night wasn't our night," Red Lion coach Heather Schoemaker said.
The Jaguars pulled away in Game 3, 16-8, and eventually closed out the match without any drama.
"It was very tough to get them back to that mentality that we had on Saturday (in the District 3 title match)," Schoemaker said.
Garnet Valley, the District 1 fifth-place team out of Delaware County, pulled off the upset by frustrating Red Lion's attack.
"We took the hard way to get here," Garnet Valley coach Mark Clark said about a quarterfinal upset loss in the District 1 tournament, but it didn't matter.
Every Red Lion blast, every sure-kill turned into an extended rally with the help of Garnet Valley's defense.
The evidence was in the stats. Garnet Valley's Lizzie Herstofa had 13 digs and Sydney Portale had 12. Seven Garnet Valley players recorded at least two digs.
"That's been our bread and butter all year," Clark said. "If we can control the ball we can control games, because whether we get a clean pass or if we just dig it up and get it back over we tend to frustrate teams."
Red Lion turned to its usual suspects along the front line, but every hit from Lindsey Blevins, Logan Dontell and Lauren Enfield seemed to be saved or salvaged by a Garnet Valley player. Enfield led the Lions with seven kills, Blevins added two and Dontell had one.
By comparison, Garnet Valley's Gabby Davis handed out 33 assists, with Nicole Loan slamming home a match-high 11 kills.
"Was something off? Yes, our service-receive was off," Schoemaker said. "I think it was one of those given nights that it wasn't on for us."