St. Ignatius must bring out the best in St. Francis sophomore outside hitter Erin Curtis. She has recorded her two top kill numbers against the Wildcats, accumulating 23 of them in a four-set loss last month in San Francisco.
Curtis had 21 kills in Wednesday's frustrating five-set loss (12-25, 25-17, 19-25, 25-23, 15-12) to St. Ignatius in West Catholic Athletic League play.
She wasn't the only highlight in a match that was determined as much by luck as by skill.
The Wildcats (21-7, 5-2) have only lost to two teams from the Central Coast Section, twice to Mitty and once to Los Gatos. Those three teams are likely to be the top three or four seeds in the CCS Open Division.
The Lancers (13-10, 3-3) are a heartbeat away from being one of the top four seeds after missing a chance to move up in the league standings. Their CCS losses have all come in league play.
"It's crazy; the competition in this league," St. Francis coach Mike Rubin said. "Every team is capable of playing spectacular volleyball on any given day."
St. Francis has an important week ahead (which can be said for most weeks in the WCAL) with matches at Valley Christian (11-6, 5-2) on Tuesday and at Mitty (28-6, 6-1) on Thursday, the two other CCS teams which have beaten the Lancers.
The week is important for St. Francis post-season hopes. The Lancers end their season with two matches against Presentation (9-17, 0-6), matches that are unlikely to improve their seeding.
"You saw glimpses of amazing volleyball on display," Rubin said. "The primary motivator for us is to make it a little more consistent. We're not going to be happy until we can get through three, four, five sets with great volleyball."
Sure, there were a couple of lapses against a solid SI squad. In winning two of the sets, the Wildcats ran off six unanswered points.
In the sets St. Francis won, mistakes were kept to minimum.
Curtis had the most kills and there were several other noteworthy performances. Madison Pietsch continues to improve after missing a few weeks to injury. She recorded 12 kills.
"She's blocking well and is a physical presence in the middle," Rubin said.
Ella Norris delivered as a setter and server and when Havannah Hoeft took the court, there was no drop off in directing the offense. She and Norris combined for nearly 40 assists.
Sammy Franco, Taylor Williams, Nunu Saulala and Lauren Scheffler were part of a strong offensive effort and sophomore libero Whitney Wallace and Erika Giovanardi kept the ball alive with digs and excellent receptions (an international statistic).
In non-league action, Evielina Pasmooij recorded 12 kills and Castilleja won its 12th straight, downing Gunn 22-25, 26-24, 25-15, 18-25, 15-12 in a non-league match. Claire Sun added 11 kills and combined with Pasmooij for 43 assists, seven blocks, 19 digs, and nine aces.
Jordan Amos-Grosser added eight kills and 16 digs, Hadley Nunn added seven kills, three aces, four blocks and 14 digs, and Miraya Rehman had six kills and four blocks for Castilleja (20-4, 4-0), which travels to Eastside Prep for a match Thursday.
Sequoia lost to El Camino 27-25, 25-19, 25-17 in another non-league match.
Jackson Kay and Tommy Kiesling each scored five goals as Menlo School topped Mitty 19-4 in a WCAL match Wednesday.
Greg Hilderbrand added three goals, Jack Kurad added two and Cormac Murray made seven saves for Menlo (11-7, 5-1), which meets JSerra at 9 a.m. Saturday in the opening round of the North vs. South Challenge at Sacred Heart Prep.
Ethan Babel led Menlo with six assists and Teddy Meeks had four steals.
Griff Price recorded nine saves and a save percentage of .750 in helping Sacred Heart Prep beat Bellarmine 12-6 in a WCAL contest.
Luke Johnston and Jack Vort each scored three goals for Sacred Heart Prep (15-1, 6-0), which plays a non-league match at home against Harvard-Westlake on Thursday. Harrison Rohlen added a pair of goals.
Brody Ghashghai scored the game-winning goal in Saint Francis 8-7 victory over Valley Christian. The Lancers (13-6, 4-2) travel to Bellarmine next Wednesday.
The SHP girls topped Presentation 13-2 in a WCAL match as Riley Hocker and Brienz Lang each scored three goals.
Samantha Firmin and Margaret Brandin each added a pair of goals for SHP (18-1, 5-0), which plays at home against Valley Christian next Wednesday.
The Menlo girls beat Mitty 14-10 in another WCAL game Wednesday in San Jose. The Knights took an early 5-2 lead before Mitty edged in front 7-6 by halftime.
Erica Fenyo and Rusha Bhat each posted a hat trick and an assist, and combined for three steals as Menlo regained the lead early in the third quarter and never looked back.
Nyla Sharma recorded nine saves for Menlo (8-6, 4-2), which plays Valley Christian next Wednesday.
Vivian Golub had a team-high five goals and an assist while Kenya Cassidy contributed two assists and two steals. Alina Hernandez recorded a pair of goals and an assist.
The Saint Francis girls beat Valley Christian 12-5 on the road. The Lancers (12-6, 4-1) hosts Presentation next Wednesday.
St. Francis beat host Los Altos 1-0 in a SCVAL De Anza Division match Wednesday. The Lancers (9-1-1, 6-1-1) host Presentation at 4 p.m. Thursday.