That is a big part of the story for St. Michael. The Warriors opened their volleyball season with a deceptive 3-0 victory over University High on Tuesday night at SMHS.
The Warriors controlled the first set 25-14 but had to rally to win the next two sets by scores of 25-22 and 27-25. Senior Sarah Templet made the most of her first start at middle blocker by slamming home the final two kills to complete a comeback from a six-point deficit.
“I really wanted that last kill,” Templet said. “I was hoping it would come to me. I caught it and hit it pretty well.”
Templet finished with 11 kills. Alexis Gonazles added eight kills and two service aces for St. Michael (1-0). Elise Doomes had a match-high 12 kills, nine digs and two blocks for U-High (0-1). Colleen Temple added seven kills, six digs and two blocks for the Cubs.
The teams played without fans in the gym, though it was live streamed for parents to watch. Instead, cardboard cutouts of family members lined the bleachers behind the two benches.
Rows of chairs on the benches were staged apart, comparable to what NBA and WNBA teams are doing. U-High opted to play with masks, while St. Michael did not.
“We were not going to take a chance on having fans because we did not get any direct guidance on that until today,” St. Michael coach Rob Smith said. “We had not practiced since last week and I wasn’t sure how we would play. I was happy we came out ready to play and not tired from the holiday.
“I was pleased with the first set, but happier with the second and third sets because we had to come from behind. I think the experience this group has showed. But we still have a lot to work on.”
The Warriors led by as many as 10 points in the first set. U-High struggled defensively in the early going with St. Michael being able to find open spots in the center of the court. U-High did lead in the set but could never pull away.
A kill by Gonzalez tied it at 22. From there, the Warriors scored the final three points. The Cubs led by as much as six points in the final set. But again, St. Michael rallied. The teams exchanged hitting errors at one point before Templet's final heroics.
"We have new starters at both setter and libero," UHS coach Bonita Johnson said. "They are all still learning how to play together and tonight as the start.
"When we got the lead, 23 could not maintain it. Even though they rallied, we never got down on ourselves and I'm proud of that. They continued to battle. We will learn from this."