By Bonta Hill
After winning the first two games against visiting Archbishop Mitty and the way Sacred Heart Cathedral has been playing, nobody would have thought the match would have turned out the way it did.
The Irish couldn’t put away the pesky Monarchs, letting their two-game advantage slip away in a 23-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22, 15-12 loss in the West Catholic Athletic League opener for both teams.
“When you have a team up against the ropes, you have to finish it,” said Sacred Heart head coach Margi Beima. “Mitty was good in game three and too much for us to overcome in games four and five. Momentum is a powerful thing.”
Mitty got back into the contest in the crucial third game, setting up a thrilling fourth game, in which no team would lead by no more than two points.
With the score tied at 22-22 in the fourth game, Mitty senior Alex Caldwell broke the tie with a kill down the middle of the Irish defense, and the Monarchs scored the last three points of the game to send the match to a deciding fifth game.
With all the momentum on their side, the Monarchs jumped ahead 11-6 in the fifth game, before holding off a late Irish rally to earn the hard-fought victory.
“We haven’t had a lot of days off since the beginning [of the season], so we just needed to get back into a system,” said Mitty head coach Bret Almazan-Cezar. “Alex is All-[Central Coast Section], All-WCAL, and our only six-rotation player, so she’s gotta be the man.”
Junior Courtney Wong led the Irish with 12 kills, while junior Sarah Jones and freshman Madison Murtagh added 11 apiece, as the Irish seemed to thwart every Mitty rally in the first two games.
When Mitty made it 20-20 in the first game, the Irish reeled off four straight points to take control. In the second game, Sacred Heart got an ace from junior Amanda Lee to extend its lead to 21-18 en route to taking the second frame.
Unfortunately, no one on the Sacred Heart bench will remember what happened in the first two games.
“When it doesn’t go our way, it’s a learning opportunity, and that’s the way it has to be,” Beima said. “It could have been a great victory, but instead it’s a learning opportunity, because if not, it’s a waste.”
Caldwell practically willed Mitty to the win, as she made her presence felt all over the court with 24 kills and 16 digs.
“We’ve been in situation before that’s been worse, so we know how to come back and fight,” Caldwell said.
As Mitty celebrated the big win, Sacred Heart appeared despondent, knowing that they let a victory slip away.
“It’s just really disappointing. Everybody is disappointed and it’s not much more to say than that,” Beima said.