By Jeremy Balan
This season’s St. Ignatius boys volleyball team isn’t at the level of last year’s West Catholic Athletic League tournament championship winning squad yet.
For now, the Wildcats will have to settle for just being the best team in San Francisco.
St. Ignatius swept visiting Lowell 25-12, 25-15, 25-21 in non-league play on Wednesday and has already taken down Academic Athletic Association contenders Galileo and Lincoln, as well as rival Sacred Heart Cathedral this season.
St. Ignatius junior outside hitter Ian Colbert was the only player on either team to record double-digit kills with 12 and spurred the Wildcats to breeze through the first two games.
The Wildcats (5-2) fell behind twice in the third game and Lowell (1-2) held its largest lead at 17-14, but SI responded with a 6-0 run fueled by three kills from Colbert.
At 6-foot-1, Colbert exhibits tremendous leaping ability and also plays a key role in the St. Ignatius defense when he is in the back row.
“Ian is pretty awesome,” said St. Ignatius head coach Ricardo Wray. “He’s an athletic guy and he made some good digs in the back row too. The set location wasn’t the best for him today, so he didn’t get as many kills as usual, but he’s definitely one of our anchors.”
The Wildcats also got a lift from normal setter Teddy Niemira, who Wray shifted middle blocker against Lowell due to an illness to normal starting middle Will Stricker.
Niemira responded with six kills and five blocks, including a block to seal the third game and two blocks on the Wildcats’ final two points of the second game.
“Today was a little odd, because our middle blocker is sick,” Niemira said. “Ian and I switched off this week playing middle, just to get a feel for it, but normally I will set.”
Other than 6-foot-6 senior middle blocker Conor McCauley, who chipped in three kills and a block on Wednesday, the Wildcats are visibly shorter than last year’s edition, but will look to capitalize on speed, defense and athleticism.
“We lost some of our height, but we’re looking to make up for that with our depth and athleticism,” Niemira said. “Right now, we’re actually at a better jumping-off point than last year’s team, so it’s just a matter of time. We’re going to be great. I know it.”
Lowell was hampered by unforced errors in all three games, but got its most significant contributions from underclassmen, which recorded eight of the Cardinals’ 16 total kills.
Sophomore outside hitter Samuel Blumenfeld led the late Lowell charge with all of his team-high four kills in the third game. Sophomore middle blocker Walter Cardillo also chipped in three kills and a block.
“It was huge for our young guys,” said Lowell head coach Steven Wesley. “We have a lot of young talent and our older guys are trying to lead the best they can, but we have some young ones who are eager to learn.”