Granite Bay strikes first, but St. Francis takes over

Grizzlies fall to top-seeded Troubadours in CIF NorCal Division I volleyball final
By: Robbie Enos
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The upset alert was initiated once Granite Bay High School surprised volleyball superpower St. Francis with a 25-16 victory in the first set. But after losing a tough 26-24 second set, the balloon was deflated and ultimately dispatched.

The Grizzlies’ season ended Tuesday night with a 16-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-15 loss to the top-seeded Troubadours in the CIF Northern California Division I championship.

St. Francis (38-2) swept Granite Bay (41-7) in a Foundation Game and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final, but the Grizzlies didn’t go as easily this time.

“We were firing on all cylinders,” Granite Bay head coach Jamie Ingram said. “We knew that we had nothing to lose, so we came out and played with nothing to lose. Total confidence in each other, just played our game.”

Much of the Grizzlies’ early success was credited to a dominant service game. The squad totaled eight aces in that first set, including three by senior Kiah Drongesen.

But St. Francis, led by human spike machine Gabriella Palmeri, took over. She led all players with 21 kills and had a clutch streak in the middle of the second set. Down 21-20, Palmeri struck down five kills in the next 10 points, giving the Troubadours the edge.

“Historically with St. Francis, they’ll give you a little bit to see what you’re going to do,” Ingram said. “But then they’ll turn it on on you. They turned it on in games two, three and four. As it got a little bit tighter, we got a little bit tighter.”

The Grizzlies took an 8-4 lead in the third set thanks to three consecutive aces by Drongesen, but Granite Bay’s effort couldn’t trump the strong St. Francis front line, which nailed 54 kills to Granite Bay’s 43.

Granite Bay had an emotional locker room following the loss.

“They’ve been awesome,” Ingram said. “They’ve been so much fun. I’ve had the seniors for four years, and they’re my first group. It’s been really fun to see the progression, having them as goofy little freshmen and have them come out as tremendous, mature volleyball players.”

Said Drongesen, “My teammates really helped me. Last year, we lost early in the playoffs and didn’t get as far as we wanted. This year, they really helped me push through and they motivated me every step of the way.”

Next season could have more success in store for Granite Bay, which returns a strong set of juniors in Taylor Nelson (13 kills), Maddy Deters (12) and Nicolette Pinkney (10).

“I’m tremendously excited to see their development,” Ingram said. “All of them are year-round players. We’ve been here before. Each year it gets us a little more fired up, a little more angry for next year.”

St. Francis will play Southern California top seed Los Angeles-Marymount for the state championship at 8 p.m. Saturday at Concordia University in Irvine.