SETTING — Jack Moretti sets the ball in a match earlier this season. He has helped provide St. Francis with hope, this year. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
A, B, and C are more than just the first three letters in the alphabet for the Saint Francis volleyball team.
Ability, belief and confidence are three concepts head coach Andy Lanigan preaches to his team, on a daily basis. Despite an overall record of 3 – 9, the Red Raiders head coach Andy Lanigan said his team has been making strides to accomplish its season-long goals, using those concepts.
“Our record does not indicate how well we are playing,” Lanigan said. “The scores in the paper don’t replicate how well we are playing, right now. The sky is the limit for these guys and they know it.”
On Oct. 2, the Red Raiders fell in straight sets to top-ranked Canisius in a tightly-contested match. The Crusaders have been the class of the Monsignor Martin division, winning 13 straight championships.
St. Francis was within a point in game one, 17 – 16, before Canisius won 8 of the game’s final 11 points. The Red Raiders had a 5-point lead three separate times in the second game, before a controversial call seemed to turn the momentum in the visitor’s favor.
With a 5-point advantage, the Red Raiders’ return hit the ceiling and looked to come down on their own side. The Canisius defender then extended up around the net and, in the eyes of the Saint Francis staff, reached over, which many said should have resulted in a violation.
“I think that’s the game-changer right there,” said Lanigan, whose team was playing in its annual Blackout Game. “If we win that game, who knows what happens in game three; then, this place goes nuts.”
St. Francis has been led by a senior class featuring Tom Duzkiewicz. Nicknamed “The Hammer,” Duzkiewicz is a three-year varsity starter and Second-Team All-Catholic selection. Lanigan said that Duskiewicz is respected and well-liked by his teammates.
Seniors Jack Moretti and Nick Novak are also two key players. Moretti contributes height and offense, while the smaller Novak brings versatility. Lanigan said he has been impressed with the play of sophomore Jake Kaempf.
At the Canisius game, the students were loudly behind their team, rooting hard, every serve. Lanigan and his staff said that they have noticed the outpouring of support, not only at volleyball games, but at all sporting events thus far, this school year.
“The culture here at Frannies is starting to change,” said Lanigan. “We saw it at homecoming; we saw it at our Rock the Red game and you’re seeing it at other sporting events. The senior class, I have to give them credit for trying to put us [back] on the map.”
Lanigan said that his team can make some noise, come the playoffs, regardless of where it sits in the standings. St. Francis is in fourth behind Canisius, St. Mary’s and St. Joe’s. Until then, there is still a lot of volleyball to be played and a lot of time for chemistry to develop.
“We have to learn to win,” Lanigan said. “We play anybody, anywhere, anytime, any place, and it’s only going to make us better. We started the season with five games on the road and I did that for a reason, because I want our guys to be battle tested, to know that they can play with anybody in Western New York and I think we can.”