St. Francis KOs volleyball power, moves to state
Published: Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 1:09 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE — Tallahassee Maclay volleyball coach Erica Bunch knows all about Nick Cheronis from her days as a Florida State player.
Cheronis, who spent 18 years coaching defense at the University of Florida under head coach Mary Wise, is now the coach of St. Francis Catholic.
Bunch wishes that weren't the case, as St. Francis rode into Tallahassee and worked over Maclay in a stunning 3-0 sweep during Saturday's Region 1-3A final.
“They like to play defense,” Brunch said matter-of-factly. “I knew they were going to be tough. We talked about it all week long. ... Their defense is the best we've seen all year, from everything.”
The Wolves (25-4) jumped all over the Marauders (24-2) early, grabbing a 12-8 lead and forcing a timeout. Maclay retook the lead 22-21, but Cheronis called a timeout and his team went on a 4-1 run to take the match, 25-23.
It was only the fourth game Maclay had lost all year, but sadly it wasn't the last. The Wolves won 25-18 in Game 2, then earned a trip to the state final four with a 25-22 win in Game 3.
“I think people go ‘Oh, you coached in college, this is going to be easier,'” Cheronis said. “The answer to that question is there's a learning curve to winning at every level. Last year, I took a whole year trying to learn how to win at this level. But I have a really talented team, so it wasn't that tough.”
Though they were smaller in stature than Maclay and Division-I commits Haley Kole (Virginia) and Jade Strawberry (Connecticut), they deflected or blocked nearly every kill attempt and dug out everything else.
Allison Benton led the Wolves with 17 kills and 15 digs, while Kathryn Herrington tallied four blocks.
“I think all you're trying to do is slow them down, you're not going to stop them,” Cheronis said about his defensive strategy. “Those are two high-level players. I told our team if we could keep their balls to an attempt, that's a win.”
Kole finished with 13 kills and eight digs, and Strawberry recorded 10 kills and eight digs, while setter Gabby Maholanyi kicked in 19 assists. But St. Francis always seemed in proper position to keep Maclay from going on a run. The Marauders largest lead in any game was just two points.
“It's almost like they knew every move we were going to do already, ahead of time,” Strawberry said. “We all felt like, ‘Whoa, they took the first game from us.' That's when we knew we had to play and they just outplayed us.”
Maclay's run of state final four appearances ends at five. Bunch, meanwhile, had no reservations in predicting what would happen when St. Francis hits Kissimmee next week.
“They'll win,” Bunch said. “Hands down they will.”
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