LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Down the stretch of Tuesday evening's Mission League boys' volleyball match between host St. Francis High and Alemany, neither team ever led by more than a couple of points.
That's why it stood out that in the middle games of their 17-25, 26-24, 25-22, 29-27 loss — the first of the season — the Golden Knights had late leads of four and three points that they couldn't hold on to.
"We let it go, we had 'em," said St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee, who received 14 kills form Wesley Coffey and 13 from Michael Bacall. "Every game that we let them get — the last three games — we were right there.
"I told the guys we just couldn't close the door. We had them on the run and we didn't execute our offense the way we needed to and that hurt us."
After rolling to a comfortable win in the first game, clinched by a Bacall kill, St. Francis, looked primed to go up, 2-1, in games when it led, 21-17, in the second stanza.
The Warriors (3-2, 2-1 in league) would quickly catch up at 21, but St. Francis (4-1, 1-1) went up, 24-23, on a kill by Kenny Leaven just moments later.
That's when Alemany's Matt Tarantino began his tear that essentially lasted the rest of the match, drilling three kills in a row to turn the tide sharply.
Tarantino, who finished with a match-high 22 kills, also put away four straight balls to clinch the third game after St. Francis had enjoyed leads of 21-18 and 22-21.
"Matt's a great player, he's three quarters of their team," Frazee said. "I don't know if they have any more to offer. He came on and did what he did and look how close we were."
The fourth game featured 16 ties, as St. Francis, which got 10 kills from Charles McCarthy and seven from Nick De Cesare, battled to force a fifth game.
After rallying back from a 24-22 deficit, the Golden Knights stopped the Warriors at match-point four more times before an ace finally sealed the deal.
"We were about a half step slow in games three and four," said Frazee, who received 46 assists from Chris Thompson and 12 digs from Riley Donaldson. "The passing was there, everything was right on, I don't think we were tired. We were just a beat off and it's too bad because that's one that we should have."