With its school facing closure at the end of the academic year, the St. Francis boys volleyball team is playing every game like it’s the last one.
After a 29-27, 25-22, 25-18 sweep over University at its own gym on Tuesday night clinched the school its second consecutive ILH Division II title, that sentiment will take on a literal meaning for the Saints.
With the league title secured, the Saints now set their sights toward their second state title in a row, with every matchup having the potential of ending the team’s run.
“As far as getting two in a row, I don’t think that matters as much as winning this one for the team because the emotional weight of this is so much more than anything anyone could imagine,” said Makua Marumoto, who finished with 13 kills. “Every single game in states, if we don’t play the way we have to be, it’s the last game. Carrying that into each game, I think we have a lot of fight in us.”
St. Francis finishes off a 29-27, 25-22, 25-18 sweep over University to win its second consecutive ILH Division II boys volleyball championship. pic.twitter.com/jddRG4YeiL
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The Saints (14-3) showed said fight against University. All three of the Saints’ losses this season have been to the Junior ‘Bows (13-4), who were on the verge on winning the first set with set points at 24-23, 25-24, 26-25 and 27-26.
“UH Lab is an awesome team and they come out blazing hot every single time we play them,” St. Francis coach Dandi Holder said. “The boys knew they had to come out here and give it their all and fight every single point.”
Sophomore Lucas Biondi set the tone for the Saints with eight kills and a block in the first set alone, constantly rallying the Saints back to even. Then when the Saints found themselves down 17-15 in the second set, Biondi came through again with more of his thunderous spikes, while Marumoto gave the Saints a 2-0 advantage with another emphatic kill.
“Honestly, it was so fun just to be able to play with my brothers and we really came together,” Biondi said. “We’ve had some tough losses to this team so to be able to push through was an unbelievable experience.”
The Saints coasted to a 25-18 victory in set three to complete the sweep, while Biondi finished with a game-high 13 kills.
“I think it’s really amazing that we’re able to come together like that and push through those hard times,” he said. “I’m just at a loss for words.”
St. Francis and University both entered Tuesday with state bids in hand since the ILH will send its top two teams to the eight-team HHSAA Division II tournament beginning next Thursday. But for the Saints, why not try to rack up as much hardware as possible?
“It would mean a lot, not only for me but for the school. For the kids. Also for those that walked before us and those who set the path for us,” Holder said. “It would definitely be great to go out with that. But it’s only something the man above can tell us, so we’ll wait to see his story.”
“It has been certainly been on everyone’s mind but when we talk, we talk about our chemistry as a team,” Marumoto added of using the school’s closure as motivation. “Wearing ‘Saints’ on your chest means playing for a brotherhood or sisterhood for whatever sport you play.
“But it also means playing for the guy next to you and so we’ve always talked about that and we haven’t focused as much on the results because we know if we take care of that, the results will come.”