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St. Joseph downs upstart Panthers for BSAL crown

By Richard Nybakken, Daily Planet Correspondent
Saturday May 11, 2002

It was less a contest than a coronation. 

The St. Joseph’s High boys’ volleyball team won the Bay Shore Athletic League title in convincing fashion Friday afternoon, posting a 15-8, 15-6, 15-6 sweep of St. Mary’s High before a raucous home court crowd in Alameda. 

Led by skywalking senior David Gordon and sophomore setter John Dinh, the Pilots (12-4) brushed aside an early challenge from the Panthers, trailing for only two serves after midway through the first game to bring home the championship banner. 

Senior Nic Konnefklatt, sophomore Jonathan Alberti and lanky junior Liam Nohr-Forrester also also contributed key blocks and kills for the champions in an all-around team performance that coach Annie Hansen credited for the win. 

“I was a little bit worried that my guys would come out complacent,” Hansen said, noting that the Pilots, the No. 2 seed, were a perfect 4-0 against the Panthers this year. “But they were all right. We really play our best matches when everybody on the team pitches in.” 

For St. Mary’s (7-9), a dream playoff run ended in a flurry of St. Joseph aces, blocks and kills. Coach Trudi Huber said her squad, which reached the title match after a dramatic, come-from-behind upset of top seed Salesian on Wednesday, felt satisfied simply to have reached the season’s final contest. 

“Well, that was fun, huh?” she said after her team’s humbling performance. “Really, just the fact that we made the game was pretty exciting.” 

For the first 10 points of the game, it looked as though St. Mary’s just might have a chance to stun the Pilots in front of their boisterous home fans. Gaining serve after two Pilot aces, St. Mary’s James Yang reeled off seven straight points to give the Panthers a 7-2 lead. 

After the teams traded service, however, Konnefklatt, Dinh and Gordon settled the Pilots down, responding with 12 unanswered points to put the first game away. The Panthers, left scrambling to get the ball over the net past the tough St. Joe’s front line, looked simply overmatched against a deeper, taller, and more athletic team. 

Down 2-0, the Panthers tried valiantly to mount a third-game comeback in the fashion of their victory over Salesian, as Greg Lai served the team to an early 5-3 advantage. But once again the court vision of Dinh and the aerial acrobatics of Gordon were too much for St. Mary’s to handle, as the Pilots stormed back to a 13-5 lead. Freshman Nick Quintell then closed out the championship to a standing ovation from a cheering throng of parents and fellow students. 

“We just never let up,” Gordon said of his team’s character. “We’ve been down two games and come back, so we know to never let up.” 

The St. Mary’s coach agreed. 

“We went in hoping to pull one off, but there was just no chance against St. Joe’s,” Huber said. “They were just too tough.”