LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — Battling through the stacked Mission League has been no easy task for the St. Francis High boys' volleyball team, evidenced by the Golden Knights' absence from the playoffs in recent years.
It was no easier this year, but the Golden Knights stamped their ticket to the postseason as they solidified themselves as the No. 3 team in league with a home sweep, 25-23, 25-22, 25-15, over Chaminade.
Getting the win Tuesday was imperative for St. Francis, as it will be down three starters when it travels to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame for a make-up match Monday.
"This solidifies a playoff spot for us," St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee said. "It was good for us to get this tonight knowing we aren't going to have everybody for [Notre Dame]."
Charles McCarthy, who notched a match-high 15 kills, led St. Francis (12-4, 8-4 in league) into the postseason.
"It's been awhile — about 10 years — since we made playoffs," McCarthy said. "We had a lot to prove tonight and came out knowing what we had to do."
The Eagles (2-12, 0-8) wouldn't go away easy in the first two games, as they used late runs to claw back into contention.
With a one-point lead, 14-13, in the opener, the Golden Knights used an 8-2 run to take what appeared to be a commanding 22-15 advantage, as Michael Bacall notched two kills to cap the run.
Chaminade battled back and cut the lead back down to one, 24-23, when the officials ruled a St. Francis hit attempt had sailed out of bounds. Several Golden Knights protested the call, saying it glanced off a Chaminade player's fingertips.
St. Francis' Wesley Coffey spoiled the comeback, though, when he notched the game-clinching kill on the ensuing play.
The theme from the opener carried into the second game, as the Golden Knights used an 8-1 run to take a 22-15 advantage.
Once again, Chaminade charged back as four St. Francis errors and kills from Chris Brain, Scott Fabian and Daniel Amano cut the Eagles' deficit to two, 24-22.
Bacall ended the threat this time, as he powered a kill through a Chaminade block to give the Golden Knights a two-game lead.
Frazee attributed the Eagles' late charges to rust.
"It's been three weeks exactly to the day since we played," he said. "We had a good practice yesterday, but that was the first time I had the guys altogether in three weeks, so we were a little bit out of sync."
Errors continued to plague St. Francis in the finale, as Chaminade scored 12 of its 15 points on hitting or service errors from the Golden Knights.
It wasn't too much for St. Francis, which shot out to a 16-9 lead, to overcome, as it closed out the match on a 6-2 run.
"It was frustration," said McCarthy of his team's convincing third-game win. "We got sick of seeing them come back on us."