Even with moments of sloppy play the St. Francis boys volleyball team slipped through Wheaton Academy, winning 25-23, 25-19 Thursday in West Chicago.
After getting out to an 8-2 lead in the first set, the Spartans (27-5) allowed the Warriors to tie the match 10-10. But the experience of St. Francis' senior-heavy roster pulled through, winning the first set 25-23.
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"Totally a loss of focus," said Spartans coach Mike Lynch. "They lost their focus and Wheaton Academy did a great job. A good server stepped to the line there, but in volleyball you can't let someone string together four or five points there … . We did a better job in the second half of the set."
Despite the sloppy play from its opponent, Wheaton Academy (15-14) couldn't find the turning point in the first set to get into the driver's seat.
The Warriors came close, closing the gap to 18-17 but three straight points from St. Francis capped off by a kill from senior Joe Denny created space for the Spartans to hold onto the lead and the first set.
"I think we started out sloppy, passes weren't there, but finally we got the passes weren't there and we started to run more offense," Denny said. "They were not a bad blocking team, but once we hit around their block we finished up the game."
In the second set the Warriors came out taking a tight 11-9 lead. But unlike Wheaton Academy in the first set, St. Francis found its breakthrough point.
With the Spartans coming back and the match tied at 13, a Wheaton Academy error gave St. Francis a 14-13 lead.
From then Denny and 6-foot-4 Jeff Jendryk helped the Spartans get out to an 18-14 lead and take the second set 25-19.
"Denny's our consistent outside," Lynch said. "With Jendryk, his position being in the middle, the passing needs to be there. It was obvious our passing wasn't there so it was hard to get him the ball, so Joe Denny got the ball a lot more too… . Denny became our go-to player."
Denny finished with 6 kills for St. Francis, while Jendryk had a team-leading 8 kills and 6 blocks. Wheaton Academy's Braden McDonald led with 12 kills and 2 aces.
"I wish our guys would play like this in every game because (St. Francis) brings out the best of us," Warriors coach D.A. Nichols said. "I thought we passed well tonight. We took some chances and missed some key serves. We never want to miss serves, but we knew had to be aggressive and try to get them out of their system a little bit."