St. Francis Beats Costa in Five-Game Thriller

Mira Costa and St. Francis engaged in an old-fashioned street fight for the California Div. II state title Saturday evening. The Mustangs, ranked No. 19 in the nation, landed a left cross. St. Francis, the nation's third ranked team, countered with a right. Costa delivered an uppercut. The Lancers followed with a body blow. But it was St. Francis All-American outside hitter Jessica Gysin who delivered the haymaker.

Her final kill – number 37 on the night – put the wraps on the Lancers' state-record sixth title and second in a row, 9-15, 15-8, 13-15, 15-4, 15-11.

"I always wanted to be in a five-game match for the state title," said St. Francis coach Dave Gambelin, who's been at the helm for all six championships. "Mira Costa was a great team. This was fun."

You wouldn't know it was fun among Costa faithful after the match, as tears flowed freely among players and coaches who sold out on every point and came up just a wee bit short.

"We came into the match wanting to leave everything on the court," said Costa middle blocker Renee Lopes. "I feel like we al gave it our all."

"As I told the kids, it's disappointing when you don't win," added Mustang coach Dae Lea Aldrich. "But there's no way you didn't meet your goals."

On the court, there wasn't much to separate these two teams tonight. Both teams came in playing at a high level, having swept three matches to reach the state final, and they were finally healthy after injury woes all year.

Costa, which graduated five starters from a year ago, played just a little bit better in Game 1, getting seven kills from Teryn Spragg and five apiece from Sydney Donahue and Renee Lopes to take the game, 15-9.

St. Francis, which started four sophomores and two juniors, roared back to take Game 2, winning on an Annie Connor tip.

Despite 15 kills from Gysin, the third game belonged to Costa, when Jessica Veris pounded a huge kill off of Gysin for the game winner. But the Lancers came right back, dominating Game 4, 15-4, to set up a rally-scored fifth game.

The Lancers, having controlled the fourth game, were the looser bunch heading into the pivotal game, even engaging in fulfilling a superstition on the way to the side change.

"Everybody has to go on one side of the pole," explained senior Lisa Altick. "If someone messes up, they have to go back."

Meanwhile, Costa players went into the fifth game with the Game 4 blowout fresh in their minds. That may have provided the difference.

"It's hard to come off getting creamed in the fourth game and turn around the momentum in a rally scored fifth," Aldrich explained. "We started off okay, but when they got ahead, we just panicked."

Costa actually led the fifth game, 6-5, but then yielded seven straight points, including a combo block by Colby Lyman and Diane Copenhagen, something fans and Costa hitters saw a lot of all night.

Down 13-7, Costa tried to rally. Veris knocked down Kamala Sipin on one huge kill as the Mustangs got to within 14-11. But it's hard to erase such a large deficit in rally scoring and Gysin had the match-winning answer.

"Mira Costa was really tough," Gysin said. "Every single person on our team did great. We fought with everything we had."

Gysin's 37 kills were the third most all-time, but she wasn't the only Lancer in double figures. Copenhagen had 15, while Sipin and Lyman had 11 apiece. Christa Conom had a career-high 71 assists.

Mira Costa also had four players in double figures in kills, led by Veris with 23. Spragg had 19, Lopes 15 and Donahue 14. Senior setter Nora Pirzynski was outstanding, with 65 kills.

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