As it turned out, the homecourt advantage was not enough to overcome the crisp play of Notre Dame and the Golden Knights, plagued by mistakes throughout, were swept, 25-15, 25-16, 25-21, in their Mission League home opener.
St. Francis (2-4, 1-3) played its best in game three, which saw a significant improvement in the Golden Knights’ attack, led by Markar Agakanian, who had six kills in the final game.
“We started running our plays, which we had gotten away from a little bit,” Frazee said of his squad’s uptick in play in the third game. “We started passing the ball better, so we were able to run our options with a couple combinations and it really made a difference.”
The home team stayed right with Notre Dame (10-8, 4-1), tying game three at 12 and then 13, but each time Knight Daniel Vaziri, whose heavy hitting tormented St. Francis throughout, came through with a resounding kill to push back into the lead. The game and match ended on an outside kill by Notre Dame’s Noah Delana after a Knight net violation had pulled the Golden Knights to within three.
It was Agakanian, a junior, who led St. Francis in kills, finishing with 12. The Golden Knights’ block leader, with four, was junior Thomas Lund, who also had four kills. Sophomore setter David Thompson recorded 26 assists.
Game one saw Notre Dame come out to a strong start and St. Francis struggle with its service game. By the time the Golden Knights called a timeout, trailing, 11-5, they had already committed three service errors and been victim of two Notre Dame aces.
“[Notre Dame’s] guys were strong and they got their hits,” Frazee said of the opening game. “We had five service errors, and that is going to hurt, and we had a lot of hitting errors. Throughout the match we had hitting errors that we didn’t need.”
The final margin of 10 equaled the largest lead of the game for Notre Dame, which also established a strong block in the opening frame.
“Something we’ve really worked hard on is our ball control and our blocking,” Notre Dame Coach Jim Hall said. “Not just our block being able to touch the ball, but our defense around it. ... There were a lot of balls we touched that we were able to get free balls out of it instead of [St. Francis] putting a ball in a seam or something.”
Game two mirrored game one, although the St. Francis serve improved. However, Notre Dame continued its strong play that the Golden Knights could not match. The second game concluded on a service error by the home team.
“It should be a good six of eight points that they received on our errors. We get rid of those and we’re still playing ball for game four or five,” Frazee said. “We just made way too many errors.”
St. Francis will get one more shot at the Knights this season on May 1 in Sherman Oaks. The rematch will also be the fourth annual WeSpikeforWeSpark Cancer Support Center Fundraiser, where each player will play in honor of someone who has been afflicted with the disease.
“It is nice to get back on track [against St. Francis],” Hall, whose squad lost twice to the Golden Knights last season, said. “They had a couple really solid players last year that they lost and they are refilling with some players, obviously really young, but [Frazee] had got some good players for the future.”