NORMAL – Since gutting out a three-game win over Montini in the regional championship match Oct. 31, St. Francis' girls volleyball had made a habit of topping its playoff foes in dominating fashion.
The trend continued Saturday night as the Spartans topped LaSalle-Peru 25-19, 25-7 to capture their second consecutive Class 3A state title and the 10th state championship in program history. St. Francis had a similar dominant showing in a 25-20, 25-10 win over Breese Central in Friday's state semifinal.
Saturday's title marked the first time St. Francis' storied program had won back-to-back state titles since it won three in a row from 2002 to 2004. The Spartans were also state champs in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1997 and 2006.
The Spartans (39-3) never trailed in the title match, though Game 1 was tied four times midway through, at 10-10, 11-11, 12-12 and 13-13. A kill by Molly Haggerty forced sideout and give Francis a 19-17 lead; a Haggerty kill on Daniele Messa's assist closed the first game.
St. Francis then raced out to leads of 8-1 and 17-5 in the second game, and Haggerty's kill on match point (on a feed from Messa) secured the title.
Haggerty and Mary Boken both tallied seven kills to lead the offense. Kristin Acciavatti and Becca Shearer (four kills apiece) and Kamryn Malloy (three kills) added to the attack. Messa finished with 11 assists while Natalie Murison dished out nine helpers. Sam Dubiel's six digs led the defensive effort for St. Francis.