With A Delta League Title And No. 1 Seed Already Secured By The Sacramento Power, St. Francis Volleyball Begins The Second Season As A Force To Be Reckoned With •
Sorry boys, but if your Homecoming date plays the St. Francis volleyball team, you’re officially on standby.
That’s because the players have their sights set on a different dance: the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game on Saturday, November 3 — which just happens to overlap with the school’s big dance.
“That’s the life of an athlete,” St. Francis volleyball coach Alynn Wright admitted. “Whether you’re male or female, your first commitment is to your family, then your school and then your team. At least, that’s how we have set things up. And our kids know the team has to come first at this point in time.”
The Troubadours start their run toward that section title game tonight, as they take on 16th-seeded Kennedy at home to open the Division I playoffs. The game will be a kickoff to the week-long Homecoming festivities on campus.
“Homecoming week is like no other,” Wright explained. “And you can’t explain it. There’s all sorts of competitions throughout the week, and it takes three weeks to prepare for it. It’s a huge deal, and of course the Homecoming Dance itself is the night of the section finals, so hopefully if you’d ask the kids, they’d have plans for something else.”
The Troubadours earned the top ranking in this year’s Div. I playoff bracket after going 12-0 and capturing the Delta League title to close out the regular season. Entering the playoffs, the group owns 29 wins and has suffered just four losses — making it a heavy favorite at a title run.
But that doesn’t mean they’re taking their competition lightly.
“Being the number one seed, everyone is out to get you and you feel that,” Wright confessed. “You’ve got a target on your back … At this point, we focus on the opponent we’re facing, and just playing one point at a time
“Our goal is to play the best volleyball we can. … And when you get into the playoffs, for every kid, this could be their last high school game, so they play with a little extra energy, a little extra hustle and heart.”
Although St. Francis volleyball is a postseason regular and reached the CIF state playoffs a year ago, they return just a handful of experienced players from that 2017 squad
Junior Alexa Edwards and senior Sam Chavez are two of those standouts and are the team’s most influential leaders on the court. The duo display a ‘never-say-die’ attitude for the team, and it’s been contagious.
“They play with a lot of grit and they don’t give up,” Wright says of her squad this year. “They could have their backs against the wall, and they still believe they can (win). They’re very good at that — having the belief they can (do it) no matter the obstacles they face.
Coach Wright says no deficit is insurmountable with this group. Down a set or down ten points, St. Francis has the players and poise to find a way to mount a comeback and pull out a win.
“We’re really good at turning a switch on,” says Edwards, a three-year starter who leads the group in kills. “If we all notice that we’re down, we’re good at coming together and saying, ‘OK. We need to pick it up right now,’ and we’re good at turning it up.”
As a team captain and sensational outside hitter, Edwards is a big reason for the Troubadours’ success this season.
She finished fifth in the regular season in the conference with 426 kills in 33 matches. Edwards also had 28 aces, 328 digs and was a menace at the net with 41 blocks, showcasing her all-around worth.
“Every single day, I’ve been trying to prove myself more and more,” she stated. “I really feed off my teammates energy and that helps me prove myself and let everyone know who St. Francis is.”
Edwards is one of a handful of returning players who has her eyes set on a section and even a state title this season. The team won’t settle for just a Delta League title, or even an SJS championship. They want more; they want to improve upon last year’s run at state.
“Before every single game, we remind ourselves what we want, what our goal is, what our standard is for ourselves,” Edwards said. “We just keep taking it one game at a time, and hey, you never know what can happen.”
On top of being a team captain this year, Edwards brings an emotional energy to the team. Wright can count on her to keep the team focused on their goals throughout the lulls in a season
“We’ve got kids who are very, very driven. And because they’re so driven, the other kids are jumping on and learning how to compete,” Wright added. “But most of all, this is a team. They really care a lot about each other. They work hard in the gym, day-in and day-out, and they have a common goal they’re working towards. You can see the camaraderie.”
Wright acknowledged she’s also looking forward to the playoffs because this will be the first time her squad is fully healthy and back on the court since the season started. Whether it was the flu or a common cold, many of her players missed time or played at less than 100 percent over the past month.
“A lot of things can happen during the playoffs, and there are no easy wins in our bracket,” Wright pointed out. “But we talk about it all the time, ‘We’re playing for our seniors, and we want their season to go on for as long as possible.’ So I’m hoping that we can take it one point at a time and make a deep run.”