LA CAÑADA — Most of the players on the St. Francis High and Flintridge Prep boys’ volleyball teams are familiar with each other via the club circuit.
So, when the Golden Knights and Rebels get together to compete in a nonleague match virtually each season, it tends to further galvanize both squads.
That proved to be the case when St. Francis and Flintridge Prep met Thursday.
Flintridge Prep received 23 kills and 25 digs from AJ Nicassio and 46 assists from Jake Woo to register a 25-21, 23-25, 25-14, 26-24 home victory against neighborhood rival St. Francis.
Flintridge Prep’s Nathan Powell added a helping hand, finishing with 12 kills and two blocks to spur the Rebels (14-1).
“You know going in that it’s always going to be an exciting match against St. Francis,” Powell said. “I know so many of their guys and we are teammates on our club teams, so it’s always fun to see what you can do playing against them.
“It was a match that went both ways early on. In the fourth set, it was also back and fourth and we had to climb out of a big hole early on. We were able to work our way out of the jam and break through.”
St. Francis (17-7) jumped out to a commanding 12-5 lead in the fourth set before Flintridge Prep closed to within 13-10 on a kill by Nicassio. Flintridge Prep tied it at 20 on a kill by Powell
Later in the set, St. Francis built a 23-21 advantage, but Flintridge Prep closed out on a 5-1 run to complete the hard-fought victory. Nicassio had two kills in the final sequence.
“It’s always a good match because everybody seems to know everybody and both teams are very good,” said Flintridge Prep coach Sean Beattie, who has led the Rebels to six straight Prep League championships. “In that fourth set, I liked the way were were able to stay composed after falling behind like we did. We seemed to keep getting better in the fourth set and we had some good stretches.”
Flintridge Prep mostly dominated in the third set, racing to a 15-9 lead on a kill by Powell off an assist from Woo. The Rebels completed the third-set win with a 5-1 run.
The Golden Knights, who qualified for the playoffs last season for the first time since 2012, overcame a late two-point deficit in the second set to pull the match even at 1.
Flintrfidge Prep took a 22-20 lead, forcing St. Francis coach Mark Frazee to call a timeout. St. Francis responded with a 5-1 run that included three kills from Oliver Taylor (16 kills).
“I liked the way we played in the second set,” Frazee said. “You come to find out there’s a lot that you can take away from this match.
“I thought we played flawlessly [Tuesday] against Crespi and we did what we were supposed to do. We missed 20 points worth of serving tonight. It can be fixed.”
Nicassio enjoyed a huge first set, finishing with six kills. Nicassio had a kill down the left side to give the Rebels an 18-15 lead.
St. Francis got 27 assists and nine kills from Joey Thompson and 16 assists and 10 kills from Guz Maltzan.