By Bonta Hill
The fairytale season for St. Ignatius came to an abrupt end Saturday at McCullough Gym, despite the Wildcats showing the will and determination that made them CIF-Central Coast Section Champions.
In a dramatic and intense five-game match, the No. 2 seed Wildcats fell short of reaching the Division III Northern California Championship as they lost to third-seeded Sir Francis Drake High School 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 10-25, 15-13.
“We were really confident but we just kind of slowed down after winning the first game,” said senior captain and setter Christina Lee, who finished her high school career with 36 assists and 16 digs. “We came back fired up in the fourth [game], and went all out in the fifth [game], but we just didn’t pull it out.”
St. Ignatius (33-8) had a tough time containing Drake (36-6) hitters Melanie Stoner and Katie Quinn. Both Pirate players contributed with 17 powerful kills apiece.
“Melanie and Katie were the story tonight,” said Drake head coach Neil Davidson. “This game was a microcosm of our whole season, but fortunately we pulled it out. To make it to the NorCal championship game is amazing.”
The Wildcats took the first game, but the Pirates had all the momentum on their side as the controlled the second and third games by controlling serves and scoring off of the thunderous kills of Stoner and Quinn.
St. Ignatius, however, came out recharged in the fourth game as they rode the hot hand of Maria Kemiji-McDonald, who led St. Ignatius with 14 kills and 10 digs.
“I reminded the team of the fighters that are they after that [third game],” said head coach Lisa Becerra, who led St. Ignatius to their first-ever CCS Championship. “Both teams gave it everything they had, and it speaks to the competition when you get to this point.”
With the Wildcats staving off elimination and setting up the fifth game, the fans got their money’s worth in the tiebreaker.
After trailing Drake 4-1, the Wildcats, as they’ve done all season, scrapped their way to a 10-8 lead that forced the Pirates to call timeout.
Both teams would then trade points, but after Drake tied it at 12, they would take control before eventually ending the Wildcats season, fittingly, on a kill from Quinn.
Afterward Becerra was happy with the season and reflected on the programs achievements, which included many firsts for the program.
“I’m [so] proud of this team, as they met some huge goals, and tonight could see the full succession of the work we did in the off-season,” Becerra said. “We now know what it feels like to get to this point and everybody is already talking about next season.”