They were beaten 2-3 in a gruelling semi-final by Beijing at the All China Secondary Schools Students' Games in Baotou. Beijing, the 2010 national student champions, won the fifth and deciding set 15-13.
The defeat left the Hong Kong players and their coach, Ngai Chun-kuen, in tears. The boys could not raise their game for the third-place play-off against the defending champions Hainan.
Hong Kong finished the competition in fourth place after Hainan claimed the bronze medal with a 3-1 victory.
Hainan came out firing against our team, who lost the first two sets 15-25, 16-25. Hong Kong team captain Daniel Siu Cheong-hung, who played superbly throughout the tournament, was struggling badly with the oppressive heat inside the poorly ventilated venue.
He was forced to take a rest during the first set against a Hainan team clearly smarting from their own semi-final defeat by Jiangsu - who were ranked first after the qualifying tournament.
Daniel returned to action midway through the second set, but he could do little to prevent Hong Kong falling further behind.
However, he did inspire his team to claim a nail-biting third set 25-23, and prevent a whitewash.
But Hong Kong could not stop Hainan's charge to the bronze, as they lost the fourth set 19-25.
Hong Kong's fourth-place finish equalled their best record at the Games, including their result in the competition two years ago in Changsha. But it was of little consolation to the players who had given their all without winning a medal.
Later, a dejected Daniel said he could not lift his game one last time against Hainan because he was so exhausted after playing seven tough matches.
However, coach Mak Tsz-shun praised Daniel's efforts. "He was not fully fit today, but we shouldn't forget his brilliant performances certainly got us through to the semi-final."
Another star of the team, Wong Ho-kiu, said: "The team was not able to focus on the match today, probably because of tiredness. But a fourth place finish is still acceptable."
Coach Ngai, who had earlier wept with disappointment after the defeat by Beijing, admitted Hainan had proved too much for the exhausted Hong kong players.
"Hainan were really clever and skilful at planning the angle of spikes," he said.
"They always seemed to find the right moment to find a weakness and tear our defensive line apart."