WESTMINSTER - Champs captain Mary VanderVeer enjoyed being on the team that won this year's Carroll County Women's Volleyball League regular-season title.
And she would have liked to have topped off her banner year with another first in the league's postseason tournament.
But when that championship match had ended Thursday night at East Middle School, she and her teammates found themselves on the wrong end of Schuster Concrete's broom.
They were swept in that best-of-five finale 15-9, 15-8 and 18-16.
The win was particularly sweet to Schuster because it had lost in last year's tourney finale to Snydersburg.
Perhaps Champs had gotten an inkling of things to come earlier this season when it lost two of three to Schuster in the only meeting between the two Westminster area-based teams.
But that was the only match it would lose all year until Thursday's finale.
Although Champs finished the regular season tied for first with Snydersburg at 22-5, VanderVeer's squad was awarded the title because it had beaten Snydersburg in their regular-season meeting.
Schuster, on the other hand, had been unceremoniously swept by Snydersburg in their regular-season match. Therefore, its players were probably more than relieved when Maggies eliminated that particular nemesis in the first round of the tournament.
Schuster then knocked off Maggies and Champs eliminated Eagle Fitness, setting up a showdown between the two.
VanderVeer expected a rough time.
"We knew they were a strong team. They just don't let the ball drop anyplace," she said.
To make matters worse, Champs was without its two best hitters, Becky Martin and Jolene Jordan, who were fulfilling their obligations as women's basketball coach and women's volleyball coach, respectively, at Western Maryland College.
"We would have won if we'd had either of them here," VanderVeer said.
As it was, Champs' only really strong hitter was Lee Ann Whitestone, and most of the time, nobody could get the ball to her.
Schuster didn't have that problem because of the standout play of setter Diane Head, who continually set up teammates for kills.
Schuster captain Amy Wenderoth was the dominant spiker and blocker on the court. However, she got ample help from Cindy Leister and Head in the hitting department, and at least one or two of them were always on the front line to bedevil Champs.
The latter, on the other hand, did little to help itself.
Champs showed little offensive firepower, and almost no cohesion in the first two games.
Players seemed content to punch the ball back over the net, ignoring a seemingly vulnerable hole in the back line of the Schuster defense.
The opening game saw Champs rally from an 8-2 deficit to knot things at 9-9.
Lynn Havock hit a key spike and two service aces during that comeback, the last one forging the tie.
But Champs fell back into the doldrums, failing to pass or set the ball effectively, as Schuster pulled away, scoring the final six points of the game.
During that streak, Wenderoth served two aces and Leister nailed two spikes, including the game-winner.
The second game again saw Schuster pull away late, this time with an 8-2 spurt after Champs had closed to within 7-6.
The hitting of Wenderoth and Sue Head powered that surge.
The finale again saw Champs fail to go on the attack, and it quickly fell behind 9-1.
"I think we were too anxious. Everybody was tense and afraid to use the maximum power they had when hitting," said VanderVeer.
Then, four consecutive Whitestone service aces and several good lob shots by Sue Roser highlighted a Champs comeback, knotting the game at 16.
But Schuster finally put it away with Leister's service ace.
"When we play our game we can play with anybody," Schuster's Sue Head said afterward. "We don't have a weak point."
VanderVeer, noting she played on the league's last-place team in 1989, was more than happy to be a part of the team that is this year's league champ by virtue of winning its regular-season title.
"But I would liked to have gone all the way," she said.