It appeared the Golden Knights were up to the task after they appeared to take a one-game lead after three frames and held match-point three times, but two key no-calls from the officials proved devastating in a five-game loss to the Celts, 20-25, 25-22, 28-26, 21-25, 19-17.
After dropping a tightly contested second game, the Golden Knights used a 3-0 run to take a 24-22 lead in the third game.
Crespi Coach Raissa Adolphe called a timeout, not realizing she'd already used both allotted to her in the game. Officials awarded St. Francis the point and game, but after a short debate from Adolphe – who protested the scorers table never notified her how many timeouts she'd used – the head referee ruled the point would be played over.
“She called two timeouts and then she called a third one,” St. Francis Coach Mark Frazee said. “We had game-point, that gives us the game. I'm a little surprised the ref said, 'Well, we're here to play so let's play;' that's like me making an illegal sub and going, 'Ah, that's OK.'“
The Celts went on a 3-0 run from there to take game-point before St. Francis notched consecutive points on a kill and block from Chris Thompson (14 kills, six blocks). Crespi had the last laugh, though, as two Knights service-receive errors led to the Celts taking the frame, 28-26, and a 2-1 advantage in games.
“I didn't want to make a big stink about it, but I certainly don't like it,” Frazee said of the replay call. “We're stuck with it.”
St. Francis bounced back in the next game and jumped out to a 23-13 lead. It took game point, 24-17, but as had been a theme all night, the Celts had a late charge in store and pulled within three, 24-21, before Thompson ended the game with another kill.
The fifth game featured 13 ties and four lead changes. McCarthy notched three straight St. Francis points to give his team a 13-12 lead and an ensuing Crespi net violation gave the home team match-point.
Crespi got the next two points on a Max Balzer kill and net violation to tie the contest at 14. The Celts then broke the center line to give the Knights match-point yet again. St. Francis couldn't capitalize as a service and attacking error put Crespi back ahead, 16-15.
A cross-court McCarthy shot and off-the-block spike from Thompson appeared to give the Knights match-point again, but the officials ruled Thompson's strike never grazed off the block, but sailed out of bounds.
“Clearly off the hands,” Frazee said. “That was a big play.”
Thompson responded with another kill to knot things back at 17, but consecutive kills from Ashton King ended the game in Crespi's favor.
“Out of 115 points, three points separate us,” Frazee said. “That's a hard one to swallow, especially for a league match. We need league wins.”
St. Francis held a 16-11 lead in the second game, but saw Crespi come back to tie the frame at 19 and eventually close it with a 4-1 run. The Golden Knights also appeared to be comfortable with a 23-13 lead in the fourth game, but the Celts made it scary, as they pulled within three, 24-21.
Frazee said those late-game jitters were a result of a young team this year.
“They kind of picked on them and rightly so, that's what it's about,” he said. “They did what they needed to do in critical times.”