PASADENA — Both the St. Francis High and Pasadena Poly boys' volleyball team are headed to the same place — the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
But Wednesday's nonleague tuneup match between the teams showed the Golden Knights' engine to be running pretty smoothly, while the Panthers may yet need some tinkering under the hood, as their struggles down the stretch of the campaign persisted.
St. Francis seemed to catch Poly in a daze in the first game and although the Panthers recovered to make stands in the subsequent stanzas, the Golden Knights were still able to complete the sweep, 25-16, 25-18, 25-21, in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"It's a tuneup," St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee said. "Our guys came out not with that crazed focus, but kind of a relaxed attitude, knowing this game is inconsequential for playoffs, but it matters."
St. Francis (13-5) played without two starters, outside hitter Wesley Coffey and middle Kevin Ernst (coach's decision). As a result, Frazee switched the Golden Knights' scheme to a 6-2, rather than the 6-0 formation they typically favor. The shuffling of personnel didn't seem to bother St. Francis, which got 15 kills from Charles McCarthy and 13 kills from Michael Bacall.
"We had to switch things up, but it worked out," said setter/opposite Chris Thompson, who finished with five kills and four blocks to go with 20 assists. "A lot of us have been playing different positions and we all play club."
St. Francis already led, 16-10, in the first game before going on a 5-0 run sparked by a Thompson kill. McCarthy also had back-to-back kills in the run that included a Thompson ace. Bacall also had three kills down the stretch of the game to offset two kills from Poly outside hitter Michael Saeta (11 kills).
The second game began even worse for Poly (16-10), as St. Francis got off to a roaring start and built its lead as high as 21-9 before Poly ended the game on a 9-4 run.
The third game was by far the most competitive, as Poly stayed within a couple of points throughout and pulled to within 20-19 on a block from Colin Woolway (eight kills, six digs). Saeta kept the Panthers alive with kills to make it 22-20 and 23-21, but the Golden Knights put the match away on McCarthy's final kill.
"I think it was good for us," Thompson said of facing Poly and Saeta, who averages six kills per game. "It was good experience to see another big hitter before we go on to playoffs."
Poly Coach Mark Mina, whose team plays in Division V, said the Panthers were intimidated by the Division I Golden Knights and didn't realize they could play with St. Francis until they were too far behind.
"Set Three, we had an opportunity to win that one, we put ourselves right in there, we started making those adjustments and getting opportunities," said Mina, whose team was swept by Chadwick in a battle for a share of the Prep League title on Tuesday after going winless in the playoffs of the Crescenta Valley Varsity Tournament on Saturday. "I think if we had Set Three's attitude in Set One, it would be probably a different match. I think we just started out flat. We know what we have to work on and I think we can do it."