BELLARMINE-JEFFERSON HIGH — With seemingly every opportunity to close out Tuesday's nonleague girls' volleyball match with a speedy three-game sweep, Bellarmine-Jefferson High left enough of an opening to allow visiting St. Monica Academy to soar back for a 9-25, 13-25, 26-24, 25-20, 15-10 victory.
"This shows that we don't give up," Crusaders outside hitter Caitlin Hall said. "We keep fighting until the end."
The play of Hall, the reigning International League Most Valuable Player, along with setter Kristen Gates, were the primary reasons why St. Monica — ranked No. 10 in CIF Southern Section Division V-A — muscled its way back to win against host Bell-Jeff — No. 2 in Division IV-A.
Bell-Jeff (2-2) was dominant from the start, building a 16-3 lead in the first game and 15-7 advantage in the second game. In fact, the Guards never trailed until the third game, when Gates served up a trio of aces to turn a 10-8 deficit to a 12-10 St. Monica lead.
That's when both teams exchanged blows evenly, until Gates connected on a kill and Sarah Anderson made good on an ace to help avoid the shutout.
"I think we might have been psyched out," St. Monica Coach Darren Bradley said. "I came in and I totally built this [Bell-Jeff] team up. They played some tough Division II teams. I think our girls saw their height and they were pretty psyched out. But once they realized we could hang with them, our confidence built."
St. Monica (1-0) hit its stride in the fourth game, when the junior duo connected on seemingly every scoring opportunity.
Gates dolled out nine assists, most of them to Hall, who had 11 kills and three aces, and the Crusaders never trailed in the fourth game.
"We worked really hard and we just played our hearts," Gates said.
Even though it fell behind, 5-1, to start the fifth game before calling a timeout, St. Monica slowly chipped away at the deficit before catching Bell-Jeff at 9, and ultimately closing it out on a 6-1 run.
"This is a really good team we played and they were killing it," Hall said. "We were definitely nervous coming into the game, but we just kept fighting and pushing.
"When we can come back from a game like this to win, it definitely raises our spirits."
Hall finished with a game-high 24 kills and Gates tallied 21 assists.
For Bell-Jeff, Taryn Nelson recorded nine kills and Jasmine Smith had six. Jocelyn Cervantes added six kills and five aces.