First published in the March 31 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
By Nathan Cambridge
Outlook Valley Sun
Rarely could a team potentially walk to a road game. However, that was possible for the St. Francis High School boys’ volleyball team as the Golden Knights made the across-the-street trek, literally, to Flintridge Prep for a nonleague matchup.
Efficient on both offense and defense, the Golden Knights used a workmanlike effort to dispatch their neighbors, earning a 25-20, 25-16, 25-22 win Tuesday .
“It’s nice to have competition that is close and we don’t need a bus ride,” St. Francis coach Mark Frazee said. “It’s not a gimme game for either one of us. We have to work.”
The victory for St. Francis (13-5-1 record) snaps Flintridgre Prep’s a two-match winning streak in the series. The Wolves (10-2 record) had won in 2019 and 2020. With the schools not playing every season, it was also the Golden Knights’ first win over the Wolves since 2015.
“It’s a great win,” St. Francis captain Robby Nardoni said. “We haven’t beat Flintridge Prep in a couple years, so it feels great to just take them down.”
Although the Wolves kept swinging away, the St. Francis defense held the hosts’ attack at bay. Nardoni led the way.
“Robby Nardoni is a defensive phenomenon. If the ball is in the air, he’s going to get underneath it and get it up. He does that. He fights and fights and fights for every play. He kind of sets the tone,” Frazee said. “There is not a ball that doesn’t get at least an effort towards [it]. Even if it’s 30 feet away from somebody, we’re going for it.”
On offense, St. Francis sophomore Will Martinez led the way with 10 kills. Nardoni, a senior, tallied nine kills.
“I think we did a good job distributing [on offense] and going pin to pin,” Nardoni said.
Sophomore Titus Rodz contributed eight kills to go along with four aces.
The Wolves had two players record seven kills. Senior Sean Mealey got his hitting from the outside, while senior Ian Hunte did his damage in the middle. John Stetson chipped in six kills and Jake Woo four.
Flintridge Prep got the first point of the contest with a kill in the middle from Hunte. The teams exchanged the lead several times until Golden Knight Ben Ferguson gave the hosts the lead at 7-6 from his position in the middle and, as it turned out, it would be for good.
The Wolves kept it close, never trailing by more than four until the end, but St. Francis responded every time Flintridge Prep got close. An emphatic kill by Nardoni set up game point, and the opener ended when the Wolves hit the ball long.
Game two saw the Golden Knights in control from the outset. The lead peaked twice late at 10 points, with both instances coming after kills from the outside by Rodz. The sophomore also finished off Flintridge Prep in the second game with a kill down the line.
St. Francis came out strong in game three. Following a kill in the middle by Mason Hasbrouck, Gabe Metcalf snuck a clever ace just inside the sideline and the visitors’ advantage peaked at nine at 15-6.
“St. Francis is coached well and they have a lot of good players,” Flintridge Prep coach Freddy Mejia said. “We haven’t faced a lot of high-caliber teams like St. Francis, but I think our boys worked hard and stepped up. We have a lot of work to do in the future, but I think we are off on the right foot.”