WHEATON – St. Francis drops few games – let alone matches – so Spartans girls volleyball players knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant banter after they lost the second game of Monday’s match against Rosary.
Legendary Spartans coach Peg Kopec let the Spartans have it, and they in turn did the same to the Royals in the rubber game of a 25-20, 24-26, 25-12 Suburban Christian Conference Blue triumph for St. Francis.
“She pretty much asks us ‘Where is your heart? [What] are you playing for? Are you playing for yourself or you playing for your team?,’ ” St. Francis senior Michelle Mclaughlin said. “... Coach Kopec’s always had the words to get us motivated and get our heads back in the game right away.”
A spirited Rosary rally in the middle game set the stage for drama, but the Royals were unable to replicate their rhythm in Game 3.
“I think they gave 100 percent effort if not more in that second game to close out,” Rosary coach Rachel Hartmann said. “I don’t know if they got satisfied, I hope that’s not the case, but it’s been what’s happening in every game. I don’t think it’s just because of who we are playing. We’re not used to jumping out right away from the get-go, and that’s something we’ll work on a lot.”
Despite the deflating conclusion, Rosary (4-5, 0-2 SCC Blue) can build off taking a game from the perennial powerhouse Spartans (11-1, 2-0 SCC Blue), especially with a rematch pending in Aurora.
“We can hang with them,” Rosary libero Katie Baki said. “We know it, and they know it, too.”
St. Francis jumped to identical 9-2 leads in the second and third games. In Game 3, Rosary scored four straight to close within 9-6 but, unlike the preceding game, the Spartans laid down the law before Rosary’s threat grew serious.
Spartans freshman Molly Haggerty notched five of her seven kills in the third game. Combined with junior Benet transfer Maddie Haggerty (team-high 10 kills), the sisters continue to make a major impression with the Spartans.
“They are an awesome addition to our team this year,” Mclaughlin said. “I’ve been best friends with them for a while, and being able to play with them, it feels awesome to have them on the team and have them backing you up.”
While Briana Flagg (10 kills) and Erin Bowe (eight kills) were the clear offensive leaders for Rosary, a parade of Spartans inflicted damage, including Maddie Haggerty (10), Mclaughlin (eight) and Mary Boken, Rebecca Shearer and Molly Haggerty (seven kills apiece).
“I mean, look at that,” Kopec said. “Pretty balanced attack.”
Maddie Haggerty and Boken added 12 service points each and junior libero Samantha Dubiel led the Spartans with 16 digs.
Kopec wasn’t especially alarmed by Rosary’s Game 2 uprising – the Spartans were trying some different things offensively, she said – but that doesn’t mean she’s satisfied with the Spartans’ play.
Despite losing only to Champaign Centennial through the season’s first dozen matches, St. Francis has plenty of room to grow, Kopec said.
“Nothing yet is eye-opening to me,” Kopec said. “I don’t think we’ve come anywhere near our potential.”