By Jeremy Balan
St. Ignatius Prep took visiting Archbishop Mitty of San Jose to the brink on Thursday, but ultimately fell short in a five-game (17-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-17, 15-10) thriller.
The Wildcats (6-7, 1-7) jumped out to a 2-1 game lead, but dropped the last two games 25-17 and 15-10. St. Ignatius even had 3-0 and 5-2 leads in the deciding fifth game, before a 11-2 Mitty (18-6, 5-4) run put the game and the match out of reach.
“Our Achilles heel has been giving up runs of points and we did that, unfortunately,” said St. Ignatius Co-Head Coach Steve Dunne. “They were able to grab the momentum and we were playing catch-up. In a fifth game [situation], when you go to 15 in rally scoring, it’s really tough to play catch-up.”
St. Ignatius was led by junior middle blocker Mat Collins, who had a team-high 14 kills and four blocks.
“[Collins] hits a high ball and he’s able to hit out of the back row, which is tough to block,” Dunne said. “We can use him in a lot of spots and we do. He’s our go to guy and he’s come through.”
St. Ignatius jumped out to a 2-1 game lead by capitalizing on a slew of Mitty unforced errors. The team appeared to be wrapped up in consistent disputes between Mitty Head Coach Kevin Corral and the game officials, over scoring and on-court calls.
“I take full responsibility for that. I’ve got to keep my cool,” Corral said. “The officials were doing their job and I’ve got to do mine. It definitely gave [St. Ignatius] a surge. They noticed we were a little out of sorts.”
Even with the errors and disputes with referees, Mitty battled back behind a game-high 16 kills from senior outside hitter Tyler Vinson.
“We’re really resilient and we have a lot of weapons,” Corral said. “They understood that it’s crunch time, settle down and fight to the end.”
Just behind Vinson was senior middle blocker Ryan Sabatini, who was constantly active at the net, collecting nine kills and five blocks.
“Sabatini is one of our strongest players, he’s really consistent and he’s the heart of the team,” Corral said. “That’s why he’s one of our captains.”
The loss is the Wildcats’ seventh in WCAL play, but Dunne doesn’t think his team is too far off.
“We’re right there and we can play with anybody,” Dunne said. “The difference is being able to put away teams and finish a match. Even though we’re fighting, we’re not at the next level where we can finish.”