The 2023-24 Herald Cup: No. 1 St. Francis

Editor’s note: Now that the high school sports year is over, we devised a points system based on team state finishes to measure which of the 85 high schools from the Daily Herald circulation area had the best athletic year in 2023-24. We’ll announce the top five small schools this week, one per day, starting with No. 5 on Monday through No. 1 on Friday. The top five large schools will be revealed next week.

A dynasty for decades under Peg Kopec, St. Francis girls volleyball resumed command with a second straight Class 3A title under Lisa Ston, Kopec’s former assistant. In the spring, boys volleyball reached its first state finals tournament.

The Spartans also scored Herald Cup points in football, girls cross country and boys golf.

St. Francis finished first in the 2023-24 Herald Cup standings for small schools with 90 points that were calculated by weighing team finishes throughout the fall, winter and spring.

How they did it

A No. 8 seed in the Class 5A playoffs, Spartans football (10-3) lost in the semifinals to eventual state champion Nazareth, which avenged a 35-17 regular-season loss.

In tight Class 2A competition the boys golf team placed fifth, 11 strokes below state champion Sacred Heart-Griffin.

St. Francis ran sixth at the Class 2A girls cross country championship.

The girls volleyball team (34-8) beat Lincoln 23-25, 26-23, 26-24 in a 3A slugfest to win the title.

In their downstate debut the Spartans boys (28-9) lost in three sets to Loyola in the quarterfinals.

Who made it happen

Spartans girls volleyball offered four DuPage All-Area selections, seniors K.K. Dumpit, Addy Jones, and Catherine D’Orazio, and junior Addy Horner. Horner and D’Orazio were first-team 3A Illinois Volleyball Coaches Association picks and senior Anna Paquette made second-team.

Senior Kyle Zedicker set up Spartans boys spikers such as classmates Eddie Muller, Nick Madden, and Gavin Gonzalez.

Senior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic was the Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Football captain and CCL/ESCC Orange MVP. He and senior linebacker Dom Beres earned first-team 5A all-state by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association.

Only freshmen, Elena Mamminga and Erin Hinsdale were a 2A mini-pack in 26th and 27th place overall at Detweiller Park.

Sophomore Beckett Jones placed third in 2A boys golf just three strokes off the winner. Importantly for team standings, seniors Nicolas Sparacio and James Collie, juniors Cole Ahern and Braxton Harrison all were in the top-60.

Key stats

Milivojevic completed 73% of his passes for 3,408 yards, 40 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, and ran for 331 yards and 9 touchdowns. His 7,267 yards passing and 84 touchdown passes over three seasons rank among the top 16 in state history. According to MaxPreps, Beres’ 177 tackles ranked 58th in the nation.

Equal opportunity: Dumpit finished the girls volleyball season with 311 assists, Horner with 258.

Key fact

It was the first time in Mike Lynch’s 26 seasons coaching St. Francis boys volleyball that the Spartans reached the state finals tournament.

Milivojevic, now at Michigan State, was ranked the No. 1 quarterback in Illinois by, 247 Sports and On3.

With its 14th state title and 21st trophy, St. Francis girls volleyball trails only Mother McAuley in each category.

They said it

“It’s super exciting and like a dream dogpile with these girls that I can call my family.” — Wisconsin recruit Horner after her kill began the celebration of St. Francis’ title win over Lincoln.

“He is the best quarterback ever to come out of St. Francis.” — CCL/ESCC Orange Lawless Award-winning coach Bob McMillen said of Milivojevic.

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