LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Right up to match point, St. Francis High volleyball Coach Mark Frazee wasn’t going to take anything for granted.
Frazee should know after watching Flintridge Prep advance to the CIF Southern Section Division V semifinals last spring.
While the Rebels lost the majority of that team to graduation, it didn’t matter to Frazee.
But Frazee could breathe easier after St. Francis recorded a 28-26, 25-22, 25-16 nonleague home victory against neighbor Flintridge Prep.
“I told [our team] that they have been to the quarterfinals and the semifinals a lot of times,” Frazee said. “They have been there too many times, and that’s nothing new to them playing in tight games.
“We’ve been there historically, too, just not with any of these current players.”
Frazee would like nothing more than to have the Golden Knights (2-0) make a long postseason run like the Rebels (0-2) have in recent seasons.
For now, he and the Golden Knights are content with two victories after last year’s winless season.
The first game proved to be the highlight of the match.
St. Francis built a 24-22 lead before Flintridge Prep rattled off three points in a row to take a 25-24 lead. The Golden Knights then got a kill each from Parnell Piano and Michael Bacall to regain the lead at 26-25. A service error tied the match at 26, but the Golden Knights regrouped to pick up the next two points and the momentous win.
Flintridge Prep Coach Sean Beattie said the Rebels, who were ranked third in their division’s preseason poll, haven’t become accustomed to winning those type of games yet.
“This is a young team,” Beattie said. “Every game you go point by point, and in sudden death, it helps build character.
“We only have two players with varsity experience. Everybody else is up from junior varsity or off the bench. Every game we can fight and scrap, we get experience.”
St. Francis jumped out to a 14-6 lead in the second game, forcing Beattie to call timeout. After the Golden Knights took a 19-13 lead, the Rebels responded with an 8-3 run to cut the deficit to 22-21. However, St. Francis closed out with a 3-1 run, with Bacall picking up a kill to seal the game.
“I just told them that whatever happens, happens,” said Frazee, who got 34 assists from Matt Grace and 15 kills from Bacall. “We have a pretty good mix with depth, but we are still trying to find our groove.”
In the third game, a kill by Kenny Leavens gave the Golden Knights a 14-8 advantage. A block by Kenyatta Smith of Flintridge Prep cut the lead to 17-14, but the Golden Knights finished off the Rebels with an 8-2 run.
The Rebels, who have appeared in the semifinals three times in the past five seasons, got five kills and seven blocks from Smith and 10 digs from Edmund Chow.
Beattie said it might take part of the first half of the season for the Rebels to make adjustments.
“Our passing and offense let us down,” Beattie said. “Give us a week’s worth of matches for our offense to get to where our defense is.”
St. Francis received eight and seven kills, respectively, from Brandon Kim and Wesley Coffey.