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St. Ignatius volleyball falls to unbeaten St. Francis on senior night

St. Francis outside hitter Taylor Williams (2) spikes the ball despite the attempts of St. Ignatius' Suraya Newman (13) and Alice Taylor (26) during the second set of the Lancers' victory over the Wildcats in San Francisco on Oct. 18, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

If Tuesday night was the last time St. Ignatius’ seven seniors would play a match on their home court, the girls certainly had enough opportunities to get up close and personal with the floor itself.

Hosting top-ranked St. Francis (26-0, 8-0 West Catholic Athletic League), the Wildcats were forced to constantly hit the deck in hopes of digging spikes from Taylor Williams, Erin Curtis and Faith Crouch, who dominated the match as the Lancers spoiled Senior Night with a three-set sweep (25-13, 25-18, 25-16).

“I’m proud of how we fought, but it wasn’t the result we wanted,” said St. Ignatius libero Nora Mannion. “They’re a really good team, and they bring a lot of power.”

No amount of inspiration from the Senior Night ceremonies or the large home crowd could stifle the Lancers, who have lost just three sets all season. With Loyola Marymount commit Havannah Hoeft setting for Williams, a junior who recently announced her commitment to Duke, St. Francis rolled to a 25-13 victory in the opening set.

St. Ignatius (13-16, 3-5) was far more competitive in the final two sets after the seniors played much of the opening stanza, altering the Wildcats’ typical rotations. With juniors Suraya Newman and Alice Taylor on the floor, the hosts won two of the match’s longest rallies and trailed just 17-15, but could never parlay it into a significant run.

“The height they bring at the net can really kill your momentum right when you get it,” said Mannion, a DePaul commit.

It’s no coincidence that the Wildcats’ strongest play came with Taylor on the floor. Her development has been an enormous positive throughout an otherwise difficult stretch of WCAL matches, and she’s continued to leverage her way into more playing time.

The St. Ignatius Wildcats celebrate a point during the second set of their match against St. Francis in San Francisco on Oct. 18, 2022. | Ethan Kassel/The Standard

“Her presence is big, her attitude is big and she protects the team at the net,” head coach Saga Vae said. “That’s what the girls love about her.”

Williams finished with a match-high 21 kills. She’s one of three Division I commits on the St. Francis roster; outside hitter Sammy Franco is bound for Stonehill College, a Massachusetts school that’s one of the newest Division I members in the country.

The Wildcats’ final two league matches are both on the road. They’ll visit Presentation (4-20, 0-8) on Thursday and finish the regular season next Tuesday at Valley Christian (16-6, 4-4). The Warriors beat the Wildcats in five sets in the Sunset District on Sept. 4.