St. Francis Ends Season in Division 3 Semifinals
BATTLE CREEK –
Appearing in Battle Creek for the first time since reaching the 2015 Class C semifinals, the eighth-ranked Gladiators dropped a 3-1 (16-25, 24-26, 25-19, 21-25) match to sixth-ranked Unionville-Sebewaing at Kellogg Arena.
Trailing by two sets Thursday, St. Francis ran off eight straight points in the third set to take a 16-11 lead midway. A Lauren Tocco kill for set point kept the Gladiators alive for one more set.
“I think the girls kept fighting all the way through,” first-year coach Mark Witczak said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. I think there’s probably 120 schools that would like to be here right now but they’re in school. So I would consider this year a success.
“You know I was expecting more, this seems to be our forte we kind of come out a little bit slower but then the steam engine starts and we just get more and more and we just couldn’t get started. We couldn’t get started and keep it stared, that’s all.”
Senior Molly Mirabelli led St. Francis with 22 kills and 28 digs while sophomore Kaylin Poole tallied 17 kills. Senior Brenna Poole also had 10 kills.
“I think the stress got to us a little bit and once we got out there we were still ready but not as ready as we could’ve been,” Mirabelli said.
Rylee Zimmer led the Patriot attack with 27 kills.
Champions of the Lake Michigan Conference, St. Francis recorded wins over 2017 Class D semifinalist Rogers City, Division 2 quarterfinalist Kingsley and Division 4 semifinalist and top-ranked Leland this fall and won its third regional championship in four years. The Gladiators concluded the year by winning 20 of their final 22 matches.
St. Francis graduates five seniors as Mirabelli, Brenna Poole, Kady Cesario, Ally Wood and Ashlyn Coger closed out their prep careers on Thursday.
The Gladiators end their year at 34-14.
Unionville-Sebewaing will now face either 2017 Class C state champion and second-ranked Bronson (56-6) or top-ranked Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central (45-3) Saturday for the state championship.