(ADAM VOGLER) [Order this photo]
Dozens of fans decked out in matching green T-shirts that lauded the Pirates for having the hearts of champions gathered around to snap a final picture of the first Perryville team to ever play at the final four.
Then, without warning, Gremaud broke down in tears. Her body shook as she turned her head away from the flashes for a few moments before the smile was back.
It was that kind of day for the Pirates, who lost to St. Pius X of Kansas City 25-15, 25-21 in the Class 3 third-place game Saturday at the Show Me Center.
"They played a great game, and we just didn't play our best," Gremaud said. "I think we're all crying because it's over, not because we lost to a good team."
The St. Pius team Perryville faced on Saturday looked like a different one than the Pirates defeated 25-19, 25-22 during Friday's pool play.
"I thought against Pleasant Hill and against St. Pius today, the talent on the other side of the net finally caught up to our heart and desire to win," Perryville coach Dave Mirly said. "We just couldn't overcome their talent."
St. Pius, which finished second in Class 3 a year ago, jumped out to a 7-1 lead to start the match and never trailed in the opening game.
"St. Pius passed a lot better," Mirly said. "Their hitters were right on. They didn't make as many mistakes, and when they did that we just couldn't play as good against them. They made it really hard on us, but even as bad as we played and as good as they played, we still had a chance that second game to win."
Perryville committed 14 attacking errors on Saturday, compared to just five in Saturday's win.
"We just didn't play as good, but as quick as we have to run an offense against all the other teams, it's going to be a little bit off," Mirly said. "And today was just a little bit off. You get up here, you feel a little off, you're just not going to win much."
The Warriors scored the final five points of first game, including three times when Perryville could not return the serve of Kathryn Cahill.
"Our serve receive passing the first game wasn't the best all around, me included," Gremaud said. "We didn't pass very well, so we couldn't get a good set. Then we kind of had a few errors where we got in the net or we didn't go for a ball that was in -- just kind of silly mistakes that all added up in the end and we just couldn't come back from it."
"I don't know if they necessarily played better," Gremaud said. "I felt we just didn't play as good as we did (Friday). Our blocking -- we didn't get many touches on the blocks. It seemed like we couldn't catch a break or anything. We hit a few balls out, and it just didn't go our way today."
Perryville did not score off a block in the match, while St. Pius had five.
"I think we just kind of came in still down from yesterday," Spears said. "We just didn't realize that this was it, and we needed to give it our all. We stepped up at the end, but we have to capitalize at the beginning. But I think they did better because they came out wanting to win."
A big hometown crowd supported the Pirates on Friday and Saturday.
"It's big for the community because it's a part of history," said Mirly, who was greeted by cheers when he walked into the rooms where fans and players met after the game. "Everybody wants to see what's a part of history.
"If it was just a bunch of girls out there playing that was just talented, that's one thing, but when you see these girls out there play with the heart that they have and the hustle that they have ... You see people like Libbi Schnurbusch and Brooke Moll and Kaylie Hadler diving on the floor for everything, playing with that energy that Natalie Gremaud has and the excitement -- everybody wants to see that and everybody wants to be a part of that."
Even Mirly and some parents had tears in their eyes after the match.
"I told all the seniors that the tears are going to go away and you're going to be left with a lot of great memories," Mirly said. "It may take a while for those tears to dry up, but they'll realize real quick how much they accomplished."