One might think 6-foot-2 sophomore outside hitter Anna Calcagno would feel more pressure this year as the No. 1 offensive option for the storied St. Francis volleyball program.
But you’d be wrong.
“I feel like last year I was under a lot of pressure,” Calcagno said. “I was a freshman coming in, there were four state titles before me and that was a lot. I didn't play a lot, but it was a lot of pressure. This year, it's a younger team and I feel more comfortable with the girls.”
St. Francis’ kill leader did not get many opportunities to show her stuff Tuesday against visiting Marist. But the young hitter still led the Spartans with 5 kills in a 25-19, 25-21 loss to illprepvb.com's No. 1-ranked team.
“Marist is a great serving team,” St. Francis coach Lisa Ston said. “They serve aggressively on every ball and we struggled on serve receive. When your setter is setting from the 10-foot line 70 percent of the game, you can't run your offense very well.
“But when our setters could set who they wanted to, she (Calcagno) did not back down,” the coach added. “She was definitely our kill leader tonight She went after that big block and scored a lot of points for us.”
Calcagno was named MVP of the 15 Premier division at the AAU Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla., last summer after leading her Club Fusion 15 Red team to a national title. She said that experience gave her a lot of confidence coming into the high school season.
“Last year and this year a lot of my game has changed mentally,” Calcagno said. “I've become a more confident player. I've become more aggressive. I've seen a lot more higher level play in club and brought it to the table this season.”
Of course, being 6-2 helps.
“I was a 15-year-old, 6-1, 6-2, and a lot of the girls were not as tall I was,” she said. “I was always one of the better players. Blockers were not as tall as I was and I was able hit over them. I came into the high school season knowing I can do this and I'm going to do this.”
Marist (8-0) certainly knew who it had to control to keep its perfect record intact.
“We were ready for (Calcagno) and their other big hitters,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “In that sense, we executed some things pretty well.
“Both teams were trying to take each other out of their rhythm, which I think both teams did,” the coach added. “I don't think either of us were in rhythm as much as we would like to be. In one sense, that’s something we have to clean up.
“But in another sense, you’re happy that you were still able to make it work and still find ways to score points. We feel like we can rely on different things to win and today it was more of our defense, more of our making some plays. Our fast-paced offense wasn't quite there today.”
Savannah Thompson led Marist with 10 kills and 14 digs, Molly Murrihy added 15 assists, 5 blocks and 3 kills, sophomore Camryn Hannah contributed 6 kills and 3 blocks and libero Grace Green had 15 digs.
Madison Wilkens had 7 assists and 3 blocks and junior Skylar Lukowych added 4 kills for St. Francis (5-2).
“We’re a young team,” Calcagno said. “We’ll see what we did wrong. We had a lot of unforced errors. We dug a little bit of a hole at the end that kind of messed with us a little bit. We had to keep climbing up.
“A lot of the girls are new to the varsity,” she added. “But it's the level of the play that matters and I think we’re doing really well with that.”