Girls volleyball: St. Francis, Montini set up rematch in sectional final
St. Francis seniors Sam Ward and Katelyn Hanrahan have been girls volleyball teammates since fifth grade at St. Michael School in Wheaton.
"Honestly, I love it because I've gotten to grow with her as a player," Hanrahan said. "I love playing with her. She's an amazing setter. And everyone else on the team wants it."
There was no way they would let the Spartans' season end in the Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinals Monday without a fight.
St. Francis prevailed over Nazareth Academy 25-20, 24-26, 25-19 after trailing 6-2 and 15-13 in the third set.
"We've been preparing for this game for a long time. They're very talented so this is a big one for us," Ward said.
Montini (29-5), the sectional's No. 1 seed, and No. 3 St. Francis (28-10) meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday for the sectional title. The Broncos, who defeated No. 5 Trinity 25-18, 26-24 in Monday's first semifinal, defeated St. Francis 22-25, 25-18, 25-22 Oct. 15 in Lombard for the program's first victory ever over the Spartans.
Last season St. Francis lost in the Class 4A sectional semifinals to Downers Grove North in three sets. Montini lost its Class 3A sectional final to Resurrection in three sets after winning the first.
"We kind of refer to that (loss) a few times, just to get ourselves a little motivated," Montini junior Julia Marciniak said. "Especially in the playoffs, we want to overcome it and just be better than we were last year, especially with our two freshmen (Maddie Kasallis and Paige Pickering). They're really key advantages."
Ward had a volleyball triple-double with 13 kills, 17 assists and 15 digs.
Hanrahan and junior Anna Calcagno had 12 kills each, senior AnnaBelle Tomei had 19 assists and senior libero Maria Russo collected 22 digs.
Ward had 6 kills in the third game, three on consecutive points that gave the Spartans a 21-17 lead. Ward served match point on sophomore Olivia Hojnicki's kill.
"We had to find that mojo where we were all together on the court," Ward said. "That was part of the thing that was so satisfying is that we played together. We wanted it so bad and that really showed."
Arguably the greatest team for Nazareth (33-5) split this season's East Suburban Catholic Conference series with Benet and beat Mother McAuley for the first time.
Six-foot-2 junior hitter Leilani Dodson, who had 15 kills, and junior setter Ella Sandt, who had 31 assists and 14 digs, are verbally committed to top-ranked Brigham Young and St. Mary's (Calif.), respectively.
"Oh my gosh. What a match. It was incredible," St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said.
"We knew their talent coming in was undeniable (including) Leilani, and they have ball control no other team has. We knew we had to play at the top of our game to get this one and we certainly did."
Montini received 6 kills each from Maddie Pickering and Kasallis and 19 assists from junior Tess Noonan. Senior and Iowa recruit Joslyn Boyer, Pickering and senior Caitlyn Meeks had 17, 14 and 11 digs, respectively. Boyer and Meeks also had 2 aces.
In the second game Montini rallied from a 23-20 deficit for match point at 24-23 on kills by Kasallis and senior Johanna Kingsfield and back-to-back aces from Boyer. The Broncos scored the final two points on a kill by Paige Pickering and block by Paige Pickering and Marciniak.
"I said it's all about who wants this game more. It was nice to see in that situation, our two freshmen in the front row came up and scored for us when we needed them to," Montini coach Steve Dowjotas said.
"I said to the seniors, 'This is about where you are and some of you have been on this team for four years. It's all going to bank on much you want to take control of our team.' "
Trinity (28-9) grabbed a 7-1 lead in the first game, but the Broncos quickly regained their momentum after five service points from junior Kylie Boyer for a 9-9 tie. Boyer also served the final 5 points of the set, ending with back-to-back kills from Marciniak and Meeks.
"It was honestly a rough start. We definitely needed a big run to get this game back," Kylie Boyer said.
"(Julia and I) really work to keep momentum up, keep momentum pumping because when we're hyped and having fun, that's when we play our best."
The Boyer sisters have been joined this season be freshman sister Reeghan, who serves and then is replaced by Joslyn. Last season Joslyn missed the sectionals with a broken toe.
"This year it's all three of us," Kylie Boyer said. "It's so amazing to play with both of them. It's so fun."