Saint Francis ruins Bells’ senior night
By: VYTAS MAZEIKA Daily News Staff Writer
Posted April 25
Technically, senior James Shaw is an outside hitter for the Saint Francis-Mountain View boys volleyball team. It’s an obvious choice, given his 6-foot-8 stature.
“I hope I’m growing another inch,” Shaw said.
In the volleyball community, though, it’s widely understood that Shaw is at heart a setter with Olympic potential. It says so on the cover of the winter issue of Volleyball USA, which has Shaw dressed in the red, white and blue. Next year, he’ll sport a Stanford uniform.
But for now his focus is on carrying the Lancers to an outright title in the West Catholic Athletic League before culminating his high school career with a Central Coast Section championship. Part of his quest was accomplished Tuesday night as Saint Francis made the trek from Mountain View to Bellarmine Prep in San Jose and swept its rival on senior night — 25-21, 25-23, 25-23 — to clinch the regular season WCAL crown.
“One of our goals every season is to beat Bellarmine twice, especially here on senior night,” Shaw said. “It’s great to ruin their senior night. It’s the ultimate goal.”
“I think it’s an exclamation point and I also think we deserved it,” Saint Francis coach Mike Rubin said of the sweep. “We’ve been playing really hard.”
The Lancers (19-2, 11-0 WCAL), No. 33 in the nation in the latest ESPNRise.com’s Fab 50 Rankings, suffered their second loss of the season over the weekend at the Bellarmine Invitational — both defeats courtesy of De La Salle-Concord.
There was no let down against the Bells (22-9, 10-2), ranked No. 39 in the nation.
“I think it’s just proof of our work ethic,” Saint Francis junior setter Elliot Low said. “We stay on our grind during practice, work hard and get the job done.”
Shaw led the way with 14 kills, 14 digs and three blocks, plus a monstrous jump serve that set up Matt Larson for an easy kill to close out Game 1.
“James has certainly brought a little bit more visibility to the program over the last couple of years,” Rubin said. “And more importantly he set an expectation in practice that we’re going to at least train to be the best.”
Neither team led by more two points during a back-and-forth Game 2 until Saint Francis surged ahead 20-17. Bellarmine responded out of a timeout with a four-point run, but back-to-back kills from Larson and George Ellenikiotis helped the Lancers regain a 23-21 edge. An euphoric crowd tried to will the Bells back into the game, but they were denied with a kill from Shaw and a sneaky dump on second contact by Low, a second year varsity setter who finished with 32 assists and nine digs.
“He’s got a lot of experience,” Rubin said. “He has a bright future in this program.”
“The setter position is the toughest on the court,” said Shaw, a four-year varsity starter who often consults with Low on strategy. “You have to massage egos and keep your teammates together, and you also have to set perfect balls every time.”
Game 3 was filled with wild swings as Saint Francis rolled off the first four points before Bellarmine claimed seven of the next eight to move ahead 7-5. The Lancers rushed back into the lead with another four-point run. Desperate for a comeback, the Bells led 22-21 when Ellenikiotis ripped a pair of kills to quiet the crowd. Another dump by Low set up match point and the Lancers were ready to celebrate when Shaw barely missed from the back row.
Still at match point, Low turned to Jimmy Frazier on a slide set for the game-winner, choosing to bypass Shaw.
“He’s our big hitter, but it takes a lot more than one hitter to make a great offense,” said Low, whose mentor was towering next to him and nodding his head.
Saint Francis closes out the regular season Thursday at Sacred Heart Cathedral in San Francisco before hosting the WCAL tournament next week by virtue of its regular-season title.
“We’ll have home court and we like our crowd,” Rubin said.