St. Francis falls in state semifinals


Allison Benton, left, and Ann Lorrayne Bzoch played their final match for St. Francis Tuesday in a 3-1 loss to Miami Westminster Christian in the Class 3A state semifinals at Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/file
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 12:34 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 12:34 p.m.

KISSIMMEE - St. Francis' bid for a second straight Class 3A volleyball final fell short Tuesday morning when Miami Westminster Christian ousted the Wolves 3-1 in the state semifinals at Silver Spurs Arena.

It seemed like St. Francis (27-4) was chasing the Warriors the entire match, not taking its first lead until 7-6 in the second set, which, like the first set, ended in a 25-21 loss.

After rebounding in the third set, holding out a late charge by Westminster for a 25-19 win, the Warriors dominated the decisive fourth set from the start, leading 14-7, and closing it out at 25-21 once again after the Wolves had pulled to within two at 22-20.

St. Francis had not rallied from an 0-2 deficit this season, the closest coming when it trailed P.K. Yonge 2-1 at home and rebounded to win the next three sets for the win.

“That is a really good team, we sort of had to adjust our heads a little bit to figure how we were going to beat them,” said Wolves coach Nick Cheronis of Westminster, which will play The First Academy in Wednesday's 3A final. “We didn't get off to the kind of start we wished we could have. I think if we could have gotten out a little faster we could have gotten it to a five-set match, and then anything is possible.

“Having said that, the reason why we came out to such a slow start was because they are that good. Those two outside hitters are the two best combination outside hitters we have played all season.”

Miami commit Sylvia Hernandez and Rollins commit Jenny Ceballos both finished with 24 kills for the Warriors (25-4). Setter Kelsey Taylor had 48 assists.

“Some of that is real credit to their setter,” Cheronis said. “I thought their setter was pretty spot on as far as locating the ball to her (Ceballos). We had a real difficult time lining up on the ball and that is because the setter did such a great job distributing.”

Allison Benton finished with 17 kills, Farah Rajaee had 35 assists and Ann Lorrayne Bzoch 15 digs to lead St. Francis, three of the 10 seniors on the squad. In two years, this group has 54 wins and two state tournament berths.

“It is great that we came this far again,” Rajaee said. “We really worked hard. They are a really good team. It's a great atmosphere. It is something we are definitely going to remember.”

Westminster jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the first set and the Wolves kept chipping at the deficit, closing to within 17-16 after a kill from Becca Davis. But back-to-back kills from Ceballos started the Warriors closing run.

In the second set, again down early, St. Francis came back to take a brief lead, but then the set was tied seven times after that, the latest at 20-all. Westminster scored five of the next six points, getting two kills and a block from Ceballos to open a 2-0 match lead.

“We kind of dug ourselves in a hole,” Bzoch said. “But I think we all worked really hard to work together and try to come back. We just lost to a very good team. It is disappointing, but I am proud of everybody giving their best this season and today.”

The momentum built in the third set win, in which the Wolves never trailed, didn't carry over to the fourth set.

“We just came out to a slow start, they have a really fast offense,” Benton said. “The third game we kind of picked it up. We just lost to a very good team.”

Audrey McNamara, one of only five underclassmen on the St. Francis roster, had 10 kills.

Cheronis said the success of Wolves volleyball over the past two seasons had a lot to do with the 10 seniors who played their final match for St. Francis.

“It is a unusual situation when you have such a large group move up together,” he said. “To win two district championships, go 27-4 and last year about the same record, that's a lot of winning. That's a huge credit to these 10 seniors who gave so much not just to the volleyball program, but to their school, to the community and to each other. They really are a classy group of kids.”

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