Once he became a member of the St. Francis High varsity volleyball team as a freshman, Mike Bacall set a goal — to earn a spot on the All-Mission League's first team.
Armed with remarkable organizational skills and the willingness to work hard at reaching his set target, Bacall showed marked improvement each season. In a league traditionally filled with future Division I-caliber athletes, Bacall fell short of securing a spot on the all-league team during his first three seasons.
Still, Bacall didn't waver.
With one final opportunity, things significantly changed in Bacall's favor during his senior year. With his ability to consistently record timely kills, Bacall helped change the landscape of St. Francis' program and played a role in leading the Golden Knights to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
That caught the attention of the league's seven coaches, who selected Bacall to the first team.
"It's been a goal of mine that I've been chasing for a long time," said the Loyola Marymount University-bound Bacall, who led the Golden Knights with 184 kills and added 81 digs and 24 aces. "It still hasn't sunk in yet because there are so many great teams and players in the league.
"I knew that I had to go out there every year and keep improving. As a team, we improved every year and it's all worth it now."
St. Francis finished 19-6, 7-5 in league to tie for third place with Harvard-Westlake and advance to the CIF Southern Section I playoffs. The Golden Knights also had two players pick up second-team accolades in senior opposite hitter Wesley Coffey and junior outside hitter Charles McCarthy.
St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee said Bacall's awareness on the court made him St. Francis' go-to player in close games this season after being bothered by a sprained ankle part of last season.
"He's not your big, flashy guy, but his volleyball IQ is incredible," Frazee said. "It's all calculated with him in that he can analyze things in a matter of seconds.
"It's pretty hard to get one of nine spots [on the first team], but he showed he's a solid player."
Bacall, who finished with 690 career kills, Coffey and McCarthy proved to be a quality trio for the Golden Knights.
Coffey notched 112 kills and led the team in aces (27) and blocks (92).
McCarthy recorded 172 kills, 52 digs and 13 aces. He joined the Golden Knights halfway through his freshman season.
"Wes was a little beat this year battling a bad knee," Frazee said. "He had a couple of dominating matches this year and had some huge blocks and kills.
"Charles came into his own, especially with his hitting. He's fast and tall and we can get the quick set to him."
Michael Mullahey of Loyola was named the league's most valuable player. He led the Cubs to the league championship and an appearance in the Division I final against Mira Costa before helping Loyola win the Division 1 Southern California Regional Volleyball Championship on Saturday against Otay Ranch High School of the San Diego CIF Section at Irvine Valley College.