St. Francis volleyball slips at home

St. Francis coach Nick Cheronis and the Wolves lost just their third game of the season Thursday in a 3-1 defeat to visiting Lake Highland.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 11:08 p.m.

If anything, Orlando Lake Highland Prep's 3-1 victory at St. Francis in volleyball on Thursday night is a vivid reminder to the Wolves what kind of competition awaits them in the postseason.

Even though the Highlanders are in Class 4A and St. Francis is in 3A and entered the match as the state's overall No. 3 team. But Shannon McDonough had 20 kills, four aces and 16 digs, and Emma Turner had 47 assists in Lake Highland Prep's 25-14, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21 victory over St. Francis.

It was only the Wolves' third loss of the season and first at home.

“I told them afterwards you learn way more about yourself from a loss than you do from a win,” said St. Francis coach Nick Cheronis, a longtime former UF assistant who faced former player Erin Fleming, who is in her second year as coach of the Highlanders. “Our charge will be to learn from that and make some critical improvements before we get to districts.”

Lake Highland (16-7) nearly swept the Wolves (19-3) in their own gym, up two sets and ahead 22-20 in the third. But St. Francis rallied, winning five of the next six points by getting a pair of kills and a block from Allison Benton, an ace serve from Krizia Lopez and a set-clinching spike from Christine Sack for a 25-23 win to stay alive.

Considering how the Highlanders dominated the first set, it was encouraging that the Wolves stuck with Lake Highland in the second set. But after the 14th tie of the set at 22-22, the Highlanders pulled it out, winning the next three points, getting a pair of ace serves from McDonough for a 25-22 win and a 2-0 lead.

“I really felt we could get the second set, but we haven't had a whole lot of experience with our schedule at being 20-20 and having to push through to win a set,” Cheronis said. “The fact that we did it in the third set was really encouraging.”

At 21-21 in the fourth, Lake Highland closed out the match by winning the next four points.

“This was a huge road win for us,” said Fleming, a graduate of Lake Highland Prep, who played at UF from 2007-2010. “Driving two hours on a Thursday school night, that's big. Asking the girls to take their homework with them and do it on the bus and then come here and compete against a very strong defensive team.

“We are playing our best volleyball right now. We had some losses along the road, but we told them the most important was to play our best volleyball at the end of the season. I think we are on our way to playing our best.”

A team the Highlanders could see in the regional playoffs is P.K. Yonge.

Allison Benton finished with 17 kills, 12 digs, nine service points, one ace and one block for St. Francis. Ann Lorrayne Bzoch had 25 digs, nine service points and one ace while Farah Rajaee had 28 assists and 10 digs.

The Wolves will play their third match in three days tonight when they host Tallahassee John Paul II at 7.

“I thought we got punched in the face in the first set, but I thought we responded very well, and that was really encouraging,” Cheronis said. “I'm surprised we got 14 points in that first set, that's how punched in the face we got.

“It is only a good loss if we learned. It would be a really bad loss if we didn't. When you play a team like Lake Highland Prep, everyone has to play well. We really didn't have that tonight. Everyone played well at different times. But we didn't play well consistently together.”

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