Steep competition awaited the Saint Ignatius varsity volleyball team at Walsh Jesuit High School on Saturday.
The Wildcats would face their toughest challenges of the season – a stout St. Xavier team with nearly all of its team back from last year and a strong Walsh Jesuit team.
A split resulted, as the Volleyball Cats fell to St. Xavier in the morning, 3-0, and downing Walsh Jesuit, 3-1, early in the afternoon.
In the first set of the day, the Bombers showed no signs of road weariness. St. Xavier's big front line set the Wildcats scrambling to dive for balls at open spots. The Cats struggled to dig or save lightning-quick Bomber strikes, leading to a 25-12 setback.
The Bombers kept the momentum rolling to start the second set. St. Xavier rushed to a 4-0 lead with a few nice plays. The Wildcats awoke with fire, tearing off a 4-2 streak to narrow the deficit to two. The teams traded blows throughout the set, with the Bombers holding a precipitous 14-13 lead midway through.
The men of Cincinnati then started to seize command. The Bombers ripped off a 5-1 run, leading to a timeout by Saint Ignatius head coach Jacob Layden. Following a strategy session, the Wildcats enjoyed a modest 3-2 streak to take the score to 21-17, but St. Xavier closed out the set, 25-19, to take a commanding 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats played with drive and grit to start the third set. The first 10 points were divided evenly, 5-5. The Bombers gradually established a slim lead, stretched to 16-13 and then 18-15 before the Wildcats called a timeout before the final push.
A win for the Volleyball Cats seemed in the cards after a nice rally. But a late net violation call at 22-21 by the referees reversed a point in favor of the Bombers, deflating the Wildcats' momentum. The Bombers finished out the set, 25-22, to claim revenge for last year's loss in the State Semifinals.
As the Bombers battled Walsh Jesuit, the Wildcats enjoyed a break and a chance to rest.
A match with the Warriors awaited after St. Xavier defeated Walsh Jesuit. The first set began evenly, with the teams trading points to an 8-7 Wildcats lead.
Then the visitors began to make their move. The Wildcats added eight straight points to the scoreboard thanks in part to kills by Quinn Flanagan, Andrew Boeckman, David Castele, and Teddy Koncelik.
The lead continued to hover around 8-9 points for the remainder of the match, until the Cats completed the set one win, 25-17.
The second match proved to be much closer, as Walsh Jesuit adjusted to the Wildcats' strong front line, only allowing 8 kills as opposed to the Cats' 14 in Set #1.
Just like the first set, the teams fought to an 8-7 score to start off. But this time, the Warriors made the move. Walsh Jesuit fought to a 6-3 run to take a 13-10 lead. The hosts held the lead until the Wildcats took it back at 16-15 off an error by the Warriors.
It remained a one or two point set until the Wildcats hit set point at 24-21 on a Koncelik kill. Walsh Jesuit fought back with two points before a Warriors net error ended the set.
The Wildcats dropped the third set, as 13 errors allowed the hosts to stay alive. The Volleyball Cats lept out to leads of 8-4 and 12-7 before Walsh Jesuit gradually fought its way back. With a point here and a point there, the Warriors finally tied the score at 17. The score then stood at 19-19 before the Warriors made the final run, winning 6 of the final 9 points to earn a 25-22 win.
The fourth and final set was one decided at the net. The Wildcats notched 11 kills to the Warriors' 10, tallied 1 block to the Warriors' 0, and tallied 15 digs, doing just enough a 25-22 win.
The teams fired back and forth, battling to a 13-13 tie. The Wildcats found a way to grab a 18-15 lead down the stretch, thanks in part to several good plays by Flanagan. But the Warriors tied it at 19 and then took a 20-19 lead.
That would fire up the Wildcats to tear off 5 straight points, as Aidan McCaffrey's clutch services did the job for the Wildcats. A Boeckman kill completed the victory for the Wildcats.
Castele topped the team with 12 kills, while Boeckman tabbed 10 throughout the day. Vince Holzheimer's 10 digs helped in the back line and McCaffrey's 38 assists set up the squad for success.
With a week to refuel, the Wildcats will prep for Spykes for Tykes next Saturday at Hiram College. The Volleyball Cats will face Trinity (KY) at 11 am.
JV Update: The JV Cats advanced to 3-1 with a 19-25, 27-25, 25-19 win over Walsh Jesuit on Saturday.