By Jeremy Balan
SAN JOSE — After winning its first-ever West Catholic Athletic League title, St. Ignatius’ boys volleyball team rode the momentum in the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs, not losing a game in the first two rounds.
That all changed in the championship game against top-seeded Mt. Madonna School of Watsonville, but the Wildcats outlasted the Falcons 25-17, 19-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-7 to clinch their first CCS title in school history on Tuesday at Independence High School.
“I would say it’s icing on the cake, but it’s even better,” said St. Ignatius co-head coach Steve Dunne. “It’s a culmination of everything, of every goal we set out and it all ended at CCS. Anything less than what happened tonight would have been disappointing.”
Mt. Madonna (28-8), a school with 65 total students that has a deep volleyball tradition and a CCS title in 2002, responded to every St. Ignatius win with one of its own, but ultimately came up short in the final game.
“We were hanging in the match by our fingertips and there were so many opportunities for them to quit,” said Mt. Madonna head coach P.K. McDonald. “[St. Ignatius is] a big-sized team and was playing well, but our guys held on and always found a way to come back.”
But when the Wildcats (24-11) needed big plays, they turned to a trio of seniors. Evan Cotter, Joel Schow and Mat Collins each had 10 or more kills, led by Schow’s 12. Sophomore Ian Colbert also added nine kills.
“I can’t put words to it. It’s everything we wanted and it’s just incredible,” Schow said. “After coming out of the second game, our energy was dead and I knew as a team captain we needed to calm down, take a deep breath and gather ourselves. Then we came to play.”
The second game was undoubtedly the low point for the Wildcats, when 12 unforced errors and constant difficulties handling Mt. Madonna jump serves allowed the Falcons to open up a 23-15 lead before a late St. Ignatius run.
“Our Achilles heel has been giving up runs and that’s what happened,” Dunne said. “They got some aces on us and one bad play seemed to turn into another bad play.”
In the Division I championship following St. Ignatius’ win, WCAL rival Bellarmine (which beat SI three times in the regular season, but lost in the WCAL final) swept Los Gatos, but Dunne felt the Wildcats should be in consideration for the best team in the entire section.
“There’s definitely a conversation,” Dunne said. “We have a seat at the table. Maybe we need to play again with no [school] uniforms on.”
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