Sacred Heart rallies to advance

Never has a mascot been more fitting than in Sacred Heart Cathedral’s win over St. Ignatius in Thursday’s Central Coast Section Division III girls’ volleyball semifinals.

The Fightin’ Irish came back from a 12-6 deficit in the fifth game to win 20-25, 28-26, 25-16, 17-25, 16-14 and earn their third consecutive trip to the CCS final. Sacred Heart will face Belmont on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Indepence High School in San Jose.

“Some people might say we were lucky, but my we kids were pretty tough,” Sacred Heart coach Margi Beima said. “We battled back in Game 5 instead of rolling over.”

The Irish comeback started when Tracey Lam dug SI’s Erin Grady’s spike down the line, leading to an Irish sideout. Lam then served for six points and Mary Kate Gardner delivered two key kills. It would be a Gardner kill that ended SI’s season.

The fifth game mirrored a match that was seesaw the entire way. SI took the first game 25-20, thanks largely in part to Kerry and Erin Grady, whose outside hitting rendered Sacred Heart’s blockers futile.

“We had a difficult time with the Grady sisters,” Beima said. “We hard a hard time blocking or digging them.”

That difficulty extended well into the second game, which the Irish won 28-26. At that point it was anyone’s game and the Irish stepped up in the third to make it their own.

Gabrielle Jolly, Sarah Bagaman and Katrina Baccetti took control of the net. Jolly led the Irish with 12 kills for the match, Bagaman followed with 11 and Baccetti contributed eight. The Irish won the game 25-16 and seemed to have recovered from their slow start.

But in Game 4, the Wildcats displayed their own fighting spirit. Libero Michela Rizzo dug anything the Irish dished, helping her team win 25-17. The Wildcats were up 12-6 and seemed well on their way to taking the game in an equally comfortable fashion when Beima called a timeout.

“Our coach called a timeout and told us to come together,” Lam said. “We got on court and it worked.”

Lam led the Irish with 25 digs, while Stephanie Zahn and Kimiko Naito both added 16.

Claire Christian, Madeleine Moore and the Grady sisters led the St. Ignatius offense. Wildcats coach Gregg Nunley acknowledged senior Kerry Grady as “the backbone of our team this season.”

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