St. Francis didn't have come out with the intensity needed to take care of a talented Wheaton Academy boys volleyball team on Thursday.
But after losing the first set, the host Spartans finally straightened things out and topped the Warriors 22-25, 25-22, 25-19.
"We may not have expected Wheaton Academy to be as amazing as they were," said St. Francis libero Josef Santos. "We lost the first set and then we were down 8-11 in the second and I remember thinking, 'We're not going to lose this match.' And we started connecting on a lot of little things we weren't doing in the first half of the match."
Santos' two service aces then helped produce a 5-point run that put the Spartans (25-8) in the driver's seat. And, even though the Warriors (22-7) kept it close, St. Francis held the lead and evened the sets at one apiece.
The Spartans led by three or fewer points through most of the early going in the third set, but with the score 10-9 Patrick Flood's kill gave St. Francis the sideout.
Then with Flood doing the serving the Spartans engineered another surge, scoring seven straight points to blow the set open as the Warriors, who had been efficient throughout the night, committed a number of errors.
Flood finished with 10 service points on the night, and Santos had 9.
"In the first set our mental intensity just wasn't there," said St. Francis coach Mike Lynch. "But we picked it up. We started moving around and we got our focus. We passed better and we became a little more multifaceted. We gave a number of guys hitting options. I liked the way we fought back from the first-set loss. Wheaton Academy is a very good team."
Jeff Jendryk and Greg Churney led with 10 kills apiece. Santos was the dig leader with 10, and setter Robert Smith dealt out 25 assists. Flood had a fine all-around match with 6 kills and 6 digs.
The Wheaton Academy attack was led by Tim Robbins with 8 kills and 3 blocks, Jeremy Vischer with 6 kills and 3 blocks and Kenneth Mill with 6 kills.
"That first set was a big win for us," said Wheaton Academy coach D.A. Nichols. "It's the first time we've won a set from them in their gym in my eight years here. And we were right there in the second set until they opened up a 3- and 4-point lead. But in the third set we got stuck at the beginning, then we fought back once, and finally they pulled away.
"St. Francis is one of the better teams in DuPage County, and we played them better tonight than we had the first time we met. If we can play like this going into our regional, I like our chances a lot."