Girls volleyball: Nazareth denies St. Francis a trip
St. Francis senior Anna Calcagno did everything she could to get her team back to the state finals for the first time since 2015.
The effort came up a little short.
Calcagno, a Marshall recruit, slammed 11 kills, one of which saved a match point, but it wasn't enough. The host Spartans lost to Nazareth 25-19, 25-21 at Friday's Class 3A St. Francis supersectional.
It was the second straight year St. Francis has fallen in the supersectional. Nazareth, meanwhile, earned its first trip to the state semifinals, where the Roadrunners will play Sterling next Friday at Redbird Arena.
"Naz is a really talented team," Calcagno said. "They've got some huge hitters.
"I don't think we lost the game. It was a hard match, but they took some harder swings."
The Spartans (27-13) actually jumped out to leads early in each set and went toe-to-toe with the Roadrunners. St. Francis led 13-12 in the opener and 15-12 in the second set, but Nazareth (27-7) rallied each time behind the powerful slugging of outside hitters Izzy Decker and Katie Hurta.
Decker ripped off 14 kills and Hurta had 13 kills. Those two combined for 6 kills after St. Francis went ahead 17-16 in Game 2 following a Nora Los kill.
Only three other Spartans recorded kills other than Calcagno. Olivia Hojnicki had 4 kills and fellow middle hitter Los added 3.
"(The Roadrunners) did (have more weapons) and their serve receive is undeniable," St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said. "We tried to serve every single passer and their whole back row can pass on a dime, which keeps them in system all the time.
"When you're in system it helps those hitters be a little bit freer on the blocks, and they did a great job."
Nevertheless, Calcagno finished with her head held high after leading the Spartans to back-to-back sectional titles. She is the only Division I commit on the team.
"I'm very proud of this team, this year and last, with how far we made it," Calcagno said. "We proved many people wrong with how far we went both last year and this year.
"And with the relationships I've made in the past two years, I couldn't be happier with my career as a Spartan. I think people should keep an eye out for the Spartans the next few years.
Ston also was pleased with the season.
"To make it to a supersectional, as I said to them tonight, and to play in this atmosphere where it's standing room only, you don't get those opportunities very often in high school sports," Ston said. "I told the girls to take it in and enjoy the moments that we had.
"We had a great season, better than we were 'supposed' to."