Girls volleyball: St. Francis aces Rosary
Rosary certainly had its chances to forge a decisive rubber set Tuesday evening in Aurora.
But St. Francis always had an answer in the climatic moments of the schools' Metro Suburban Blue girls volleyball match.
Seemingly on life support midway through the second set, Rosary overcame a significant deficit to earn three attempts at forcing a third game.
The Spartans' Gwen Locascio, however, served consecutive points to sustain St. Francis' visions of a perfect league season in completing a 25-16, 30-28 straight-sets victory.
The longtime rivals had nine straight deadlocks beginning with Rosary knotting the second set at 20-all before Locascio adjourned to the back line.
Three separate Rosary athletes failed to return the first Locascio effort, and St. Francis escaped on a Royals hitting error moments later.
St. Francis' collective serving strengths were a telling factor as the team finished with 10 combined aces.
"With a week-plus remaining in the regular season, St. Francis improved to 16-10 overall, 6-0 in the league; Rosary fell to 13-15, 2-3.
"There was a lot riding on it," Locascio said of her two clinching service points. "I was hoping for an ace -- or something like it. I just wanted a good serve."
St. Francis neither trailed nor was the first set ever tied; there were three ties in the first 6 points of Game 2, only to see the Spartans surge with a 14-6 run for a comfortable 17-9 lead.
Rosary, however, found the inspiration to make St. Francis understand the second set would not be another mundane triumph.
"We showed that we could come back and the first set was not how we usually play," said Rosary four-year varsity member Taylor Riddiford. "Francis has always been a big rival for us. (The first set-plus) was a rude awakening."
"We were basically saying that we know we can play better," added Rosary outside-hitting leader Kylie Loquerico.
Rosary more than met the challenge, using an 11-3 burst to forge the first of the nine straight ties between the 20th and 28th points.
Despite having three service chances to secure the 2-point differential for a third set, Rosary was stymied by the Spartans' equal number of front-row kills.
Nora Los (nine) and Shay McMillen (seven) combined for 16 kills to power the Spartans' attack.
KK Dumpit and Los had half of the Spartans' 10 aces with three and two, respectively.
McMillen set the early tone with four straight points -- a block to augment three vicious spikes -- in the first set.
"We had a lot of momentum going into this game," McMillen said. "We were 7-0 in conference (including crossovers). Our team is always so supportive of each other. We had a lot of positivity with the last (second-set) points."
Rosary certainly made it interesting, though.
"Our passing was really good; that's what we have been working on all season," Locquerico said. "We did not back down at all. We were swinging our hearts away."