Neither Steve Dowjotas nor his assistant coaches could remember the last time Montini defeated St. Francis, but after the Broncos opened leads of 12-4 and 20-16 in the first game Wednesday in Wheaton it looked like Montini might finally end its long losing streak against the Spartans.
But appearances can be deceiving.
St. Francis used a 9-2 run to close out the first set and led from start to finish in Game 2 to beat Montini 25-22, 25-15 in a Girls Catholic Athletic Conference match.
"We've been in a funk the last couple of weeks," Dowjotas said. "It's been a really tough section of our season. Mentally, we haven't really had a break. Even the Glenbard West match (a loss Tuesday) we got off to a 7-0 lead in Game 1 and 7-1 in Game 2 and let them come back like we did today.
"St. Francis is good," he added. "You can't make a lot of mistakes against a good team. That's how we lost yesterday and how we lost again today. We started making mental errors. I think the fact that we have a week off will really help us get regrouped mentally."
St. Francis (14-4, 5-0) began its slow climb toward a first-set win on one of five Montini errors during the final 15 points. An ace by Maddie Shulski and a kill by Anna Calcagno sandwiched around a Montini error got the Spartans within 20-18, and two Maria Russo aces pulled the hosts even.
An ace by Ashley Zulauf gave St. Francis a 23-22 lead, and another Montini error and a Zulauf block closed out the first set.
"We stuck together as a team," said St. Francis setter/middle hitter Madison Wilkens. "We told each other before the game we weren't sure how (the Broncos) were going to come out, but we knew we had each other's back, stayed with each other and pulled through."
The Spartans never trailed in the second set, opening leads of 10-6, 16-9 and 20-13. The match ended on a kill by St. Francis' Samantha Ward.
"We have come out of the locker room a little slow all year at home," St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said. "I don't know what they're doing in the locker room before the game. Maybe I need to be in there.
"I don't know if it's just them getting their confidence and into the flow of the game, but knock on wood, we have been able to turn it around," she added.
Wilkens led St. Francis with 4 kills, 12 assists and 2 blocks, Russo added 9 digs, Zulauf contributed 6 kills and 8 digs, and Calcagno had 5 kills and 2 blocks.
Joslyn Boyer paced Montini (12-9, 2-3) with 13 assists and 5 digs, Caitlyn Meeks added 5 kills, and Michelle Glover and Lexi Quaglia each had 4 kills.
"Our schedule is extremely tough," Dowjotas said. "That's 11, 12 straight matches that we played top 10 or top 12 teams. I think we've got to get back to the fundamentals. Mentally, we're not doing the right thing right now."