St. Francis seniors reunited, and win feels so good
St. Francis third-year varsity boys volleyball players Jack McGuire and Tommy LaMantia were excited to reunite with the program's other eight seniors this season.
Little did they know that Monday's 25-9, 25-11 Senior Night victory over St. Laurence in Wheaton would mark the first time all of them could play in six weeks.
"We all played together freshman year and to have us all play together tonight was really nice," LaMantia said. "It was great to have everybody come out and see us play. It's a huge crowd. It was good to see all of the seniors get involved as a team."
All 12 varsity players helped St. Francis (18-16) dominate the Chicago Catholic League crossover with the spotlight on the seniors -- McGuire, LaMantia, Dillon Brummel, Anthony Clare, Drew Harper, Bayden Keown, Ryan Long, Sean Riggs, Nick Russo and Joey Spatz.
Keown and Long had 6 and 5 kills, respectively, to lead six players with at least 2. Setter McGuire had 19 assists, 4 kills, 2 blocks, 14 service points and 4 aces and libero LaMantia had 8 digs.
"As a coach what you look at is we're very well balanced," St. Francis coach Mike Lynch said. "This group has a lot of good chemistry. They push each other when they have to and they back off when they know they have to. That's important."
McGuire was at the center of the action of the first game. After a kill by Long started the match, McGuire served the next 11 points with 3 aces for a 12-0 advantage. He also had 3 kills, 2 on dumps and the other on an aggressive attack after a passing error by the Vikings (6-9).
"Towards the beginning of the year, I wasn't as confident in myself attacking and then (Lynch) told me I have to start doing it more if we want to win," McGuire said. "I think I just became more and more comfortable with it and started doing it more often."
In the second game sophomore Marcus Ingold had 3 kills and 4 straight service points with 2 aces for a 6-1 lead. Five straight points from freshman Bryce Walker opened a 21-8 lead.
When Keown sprained his ankle and then suffered a concussion in his first match back, Walker stepped up at middle hitter in his place. LaMantia was sidelined by a concussion for more than two weeks.
With only four returnees from the 2016 varsity, it's a relatively inexperienced lineup. McGuire and LaMantia are the program's only club players.
"It's fun to watch them. They're starting to believe in themselves," Lynch said. "They like this, being in a conference and playing up against the big schools. They take it as a challenge. It's easy to motivate them in practice."
Even lacking full strength, the Spartans have big wins over Benet, St. Charles North and St. Rita, costing the Mustangs a share of the CCL Blue Division title with Brother Rice.
"We've had some games that we were right there, lost towards the end, and a couple of other games that are good wins," McGuire said. "We've played some really great teams. Towards the end of the season we're starting to get more confidence and playing a lot better."
St. Francis, the No. 12 seed in the Oswego sectional, is hoping for another chance against No. 5 Naperville Central after two close two-game losses. The Spartans first must beat No. 21 Willowbrook.
As LaMantia said he's learned through volleyball, "don't underestimate yourself or the people you play against."
"(Naperville Central is) a great team, Willowbrook also," LaMantia said. "We were right there both times, but we never had a full lineup. We're looking very positive going into that match."
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