Football: St Francis holds of Marian Catholic for thirdSt. Francis players celebrate during their class 3A state final consolation game against Marian Catholic at Redbird Arena in Normal, IL Saturday, November 12, 2011. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2011 6:55PM
NORMAL — Sixteen state appearances vs. two.
Eight state titles vs. none.
Saturday’s Class 3A third-place match at Redbird Arena pretty much played out like the numbers as St. Francis held off a persistent Marian Catholic in Game 1 and eventually rolled to a 25-20, 25-11 victory.
Haley Gable had seven kills, Carly Werner 16 assists and Maddie Defino seven digs for St. Francis (35-7).
Amber Clay (seven kills), Colleen Rynne (15 assists) and Nicole Manno (seven digs) led the way for Marian Catholic (24-18).
The loss brought to an end a remarkable season in which Marian Catholic improved from a 10-25 mark in 2010.
“We don’t want this last match to dampen our season,” Marian coach Ryan Summers said. “It’s a shame that we didn’t give our best game today. It wasn’t that we didn’t fight hard or want it or try, we just didn’t click today.
“All year long these girls worked hard. It was a goal for them to get here. And we accomplished that goal. And I’m pretty proud of that.”
Marian did get some return on its efforts in Game 1, especially in the first half when the Spartans rallied from a 10-5 deficit to an 11-11 tie.
Freshman Kelsey Clark had two kills during that stretch, while Rosalind Byrd added another.
“From the get-go the passes were there and on,” Rynne said. “Once the passes are on, I have more options to set and it’s easier for them to put it down. That was in our favor in those moments.
“It was a really good game. We were both tightly matched.”
Marian would never lead, but St. Francis wasn’t able to run away in Game 1. Gable had three consecutive kills to allow St. Francis to jump back in front, but Marian stayed within five points the rest of the way.
Not so in Game 2. In rapid-fire order, St. Francis scored the first four points, and at 11-2 it was pretty obvious which direction the match was going.
Marian, meanwhile, will be going in another direction next year. Reaching state means the program is no longer eligible for the IHSA’s muliplier waiver. The Spartans, who return everybody who played at state, will compete in Class 4A in 2012.
“This year we had to spend a lot of time ironing out some fundamental changes and putting in some offensive and defensive philosophies,” Summers said. “Next year we’ll be able to spend more time improving and taking advantage of other teams’ weaknesses and getting to the next level.
“Hopefully we’ll start where we finished, other than today. Next year I think we can do some good things. I’m pretty excited about that.”