Faced with an intimidating No. 2 seed on the road in its playoff opener, the St. Francis High boys' volleyball team didn't get off to the best of starts Tuesday night.
And even though the Golden Knights rebounded to give host Esperanza pause in the second game of their CIF Southern Section Division I opener, the Aztecs finished off the job with a 25-13, 25-19, 25-15 sweep.
"I would say their reputation, first," Golden Knights Coach Mark Frazee said when asked what spooked his team. "On paper, they look pretty frightening, with their wins and their win percentage, with their four guys going D-I, with their height.
"But it was not anything that we haven't seen. ...We've seen comparable players and we've seen them compiled on one team."
Indeed, claiming residency in the Mission League along with No. 1 seed Loyola, the Golden Knights are no stranger to powerful opposition. And while the first game may have been a walkover, St. Francis gained some traction in the second.
"We kind of got our butterflies out on the first game," said Frazee, who got nine kills from four-year varsity outside hitter Michael Bacall.
St. Francis took a 16-12 lead in the second game and forced the Aztecs to call a timeout. It might have been enough to break up the Golden Knights' momentum, though, as they went on to commit two hitting errors and a serving error to surrender the lead.
"That got them up again and we never recovered," Frazee said. "We just didn't click tonight. We were out of sync and just didn't flow real well.
"We beat ourselves with errors. We tried serving tough and it cost us, we missed a lot of points on missed serves. Sporadically we were good, sometimes we just couldn't stop and other times we were just off enough. They played very good defense."
The loss wraps up a season in which St. Francis finished fourth in its tough league and qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2004.
"I'm really proud of the guys," Frazee said. "This has been a goal to finally get into playoffs. Every year it's a goal. Sometimes it's just not a reality. Last year we missed it by one game, this year we get in and our reward is a Division I school with 3,000 kids in it."