The day ended as it began for the York Suburban boys' volleyball team, with the Trojans matched up against Pittsburgh-area powerhouse North Allegheny.

And while Suburban would have preferred a gold trophy to its 25-19, 25-19 loss to the Tigers in the championship match of the Koller Classic at Central York High School on Saturday, the manner in which Suburban reached that final left its players and coaches with plenty to feel encouraged about.

Within the span of 11 hours, the Trojans knocked off a handful of the top volleyball teams in the state. They even survived a one-game, elimination-round showdown with Ambridge, the state's No. 1 Class AA team according to the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association. (Suburban entered the weekend ranked No. 2.)

It all amounted to yet another stride forward for York Suburban, which continues to bolster its standing among the state's top teams.

"Some schools didn't even know who York Suburban was," York Suburban senior Fred Gard said. "They were just putting us down as a top team. Then we go ahead and beat the number one team. It makes a statement."

Suburban was the only of the four YAIAA entrants at Saturday's 20-team event to advance past the tournament's second elimination round. Central York won its pool, but crashed out to Penn Manor in the round of 16. Northeastern and Dallastown also saw their days end in the same round.

The Trojans, meanwhile, continued to build off their strong start in YAIAA play. Suburban is 7-0 and has yet to drop a set in league play.

"This was exactly what we needed, just to face tough teams," said Suburban coach Jamie Evans, whose group finished 6-2 in pool play. "Our pool was stacked, and we played strong."

No win, however, provided Suburban with as much satisfaction as its meeting with Ambridge. The one-game match was the first meeting this season between the state's two top-ranked Class AA teams.

The Trojans trailed 18-14, before setter Kody Deiter stepped to the service line. Behind him, York Suburban rolled off six straight points, on its way to a 25-21 victory.

"I thought that was probably our best defensive game of the day," Evans said. "I think that little ranking thing gave us a little fire, too."

Suburban followed that up with a 25-21 over Chambersburg (No. 4 in the state in Class AAA), then rolled through Pennsbury, 25-18, in the semifinal.

That set up a rematch with North Allegheny, the top Class AAA team in Pennsylvania and the No. 19 squad in the country according to ESPN. The teams had split a pair of games -- 27-26 Suburban, 27-25 North Allegheny -- during the first pool play matches at 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

The second meeting offered significantly less drama. North Allegheny scored six of seven points to break a late deadlock in Game 1, then opened up Game 2 with a 10-2 spurt. Jaryd Eshler led the Trojans with five kills in the final, while Deiter dished 13 assists.

"For our guys, as much experience as they have, this was their first time getting to the finals of a varsity tournament," Evans said. "I think we were a little tight at the beginning, not quite as relaxed."

Added Gard: "I think if we use this momentum, it can take us through the rest of the season."

For the hosts, Saturday's tournament offered both signs of improvement and reminders of work to come. Central York played some of its best volleyball of the season during pool play. It swept state-ranked Emmaus and split with Ambridge.

But in their first elimination game with Penn Manor, the Panthers fell behind early during a 25-16 defeat.

"I don't know how much more I could have hoped for coming out of pool play," Central York coach Brad Livingston said. "Then we did some of the same things that have hurt us during tournaments. We got behind, and then the further behind we got, the more excited Penn Manor got."

Dallastown qualified third from its five-team pool, before falling to Pennsbury, 25-22, in the round of 16. Northeastern suffered a disappointing last-place finish in its pool, then nearly knocked off North Allegheny during a 25-22 elimination round loss.

@johnsclayton; 771-2045