St. Francis advances to state volleyball final
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 12:27 p.m.
KISSIMMEE — St. Francis nearly saw its first visit to the FHSAA Girls Volleyball Finals end unexpectedly Friday.
Class 3A state final
St. Francis (27-4) vs. Orlando The First Academy (21-7)
Silver Spurs Arena, Kissimmee
After Clearwater Central Catholic wiped away an 0-2 match deficit to force a deciding 15-point fifth set, everything the Wolves had worked for was on the line. If they wanted to play for a state title today at noon against four-time defending state champion Orlando The First Academy, they had to earn it.
As it has all season, St. Francis showed plenty of grit and determination.
Allison Benton had three of her 27 kills in the fifth set, and Kathryn Herrington used one of her four blocks to end it as the Wolves outlasted the Marauders 15-10 for a 3-2 match victory in the Class 3A state semifinals at Silver Spurs Arena.
“We gutted one out,” said St. Francis coach Nick Cheronis.
The teams split the first four sets, with the Wolves winning the first two — 25-23, 25-19 — and losing the next two — 23-25, 21-25.
“What really has to happen for a team to be up 2-0 and win or 2-1 and win is you really have to love the moment you are in and not think about, ‘Oh gosh, we don't want to lose this,' ” Cheronis said. “I really felt our team played not to lose in the third set. That was a big difference.”
Tied at 7-7 in the fifth, the Wolves scored eight of the next 11 points, taking the lead for good on a Benton kill.
The junior finished with 27 kills and 26 digs to lead St. Francis (27-4). Herrington had nine kills and four blocks, and the Wolves got big contributions from Megan Lee (eight kills and 12 digs), Farah Rajaee (25 assists and 10 digs), Ann Lorrayne Bzoch (29 digs) and Shannon Richards (26 assists, nine digs and two aces).
The Marauders (23-8) got outstanding play from 6-foot-2 sophomore blocker Katie Moore (13 kills, six blocks) and sophomore hitter Shea Hamilton (16 kills, 25 digs).
“I thought the first two sets we knew that was not their kind of volleyball, they were much better than they played,” Benton said. “After they won the first one and then the second one, we kind of thought we needed to step it up.”
The Wolves certainly had great fan support from Gainesville, something the players appreciated.
“I think it is really exciting for the whole school,” Rajaee said. “ To have the amount of fans that came out today to support us and to be in the finals alone is an amazing experience I don't think any of us will forget.”
Lee said the mission is not complete.
“Not until we win,” she said. “Our motto is one more game. After this game, we have one more game to play with each other. We just play for our teammates.”