The Derry boys volleyball team led Deer Lakes two games to none in their Section 2-AA match Thursday at Deer Lakes High School.
The Trojans then appeared to begin putting the nails in the Lancers' coffin as they built a three-point lead in the latter stages of Game 3.
But Deer Lakes rallied, starting with an 8-1 run to take Game 3, 25-21.
The Lancers then won Game 4, 25-20, and outlasted the Trojans, 18-16, in Game 5 to pull out the dramatic victory.
“It's really hard to put this into words,” said senior Devin Demase, who played Thursday's game while battling the effects of a stomach bug.
The match-winning point came on a block from Demase. Deer Lakes had built a 6-1 lead in the deciding game to 15, but Derry came back and moved ahead 13-11.
The teams went into “overtime” tied at 15. A tap over the net from Tyler Osselborn put Deer Lakes ahead 17-16 and set up the match clincher.
“We got the points when we needed them,” Demase said. “No one was going to let this one slip away.”
Deer Lakes swept Derry last year, but the Trojans took the first match earlier this month 3-0 and moved to No. 2 in the Western Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association Class AA rankings.
The No. 3 Lancers (11-2 overall) came into the game having won seven in a row since the Derry loss. The Trojans' only other setback this season came against North Allegheny, as they also are 11-2 overall.
The teams now are tied for the Section 2 lead at 6-1. Each has three section games remaining.
“Any time you give a good team like Deer Lakes life and momentum, they are going to take advantage of it,” Derry coach Shawn Spencer said.
“Deer Lakes made more plays later in the match. My hat's off to them. They played hard. We told the kids that it's only one match. Nothing was won or lost tonight. This will be a good character builder for the boys to see how they can bounce back.”
Osselborn came up huge for Deer Lakes with 26 kills and 17 blocks, while Dan Hutchinson added 17 kills for the Lancers.
“We knew we were good enough to win this match, and they were about to walk all over us,” Deer Lakes coach Brady Schuller said.
“But we gained momentum with the win (in Game 3), and it built from there. We've now faced our adversity with losing to them the first time and falling behind in this match. This (match) will help them with confidence as they continue to play and head into the playoffs.”
John Kerr paced the Derry attack with 23 kills and five blocks. Jeff Perratone added 14 kills, Ethan Sellong tallied four blocks, and setter Jake Griffin delivered 62 assists.
Game 1 was close early before Derry pulled away for a 25-15 win.
The Trojans led 23-18 in Game 2 before Deer Lakes used a 5-0 run to forge a 23-23 tie. The teams traded points before kills from Kerr and Sellong ended the game at 26-24.