For the sixth time as many years, St. John's volleyball players huddled around the D.C. State Athletic Association banner – this time throwing up six fingers to mark their latest victory. The Cadets swaps Sidwell Friends on Friday, 25-20, 25-23, 25-20, to remain the only victors in the DCSAA since the league started in 2013.
"I think we're starting to like the challenge; Every year it's gotten tougher to win it, "Coach Bill Pribac said. "For us to keep competing like this so late in the year."
St. John's (24-8) overwhelmed the Quakers (21-6) in the championship game at Trinity University with their hard-hitting style of play, taking a seven-point lead early in the opening set. The Cadets let out a resounding cheer when Sidwell called a timeout in the set, as if the championship was all but won.
Senior setter and tournament MVP Lauren Antonucci helped the Cadets to establish an aggressive presence at the net, cycling the ball in set plays to push Sidwell out of position.
"We all have really loud personalities, and I think it shows on the [court] with our energy, "Antonucci said.
Trailing the Cadets by two sets, Sidwell threw everything it had at St. John's in hopes or spoiling the sweep. The Quakers struck early in the third, aiming for a 7-3 lead. But St. John's sophomore right-side hitter Madison Kilpatrick combined with junior Nicole Taylor in front of Sidwell's momentum.
The Cadets rallied to their first lead at 15-14 and never let it go.
Helped by a competitive field in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference, St. John's won DCSAA title after title with minimal fuss. For the Cadets, six years of titles have established a winning culture.
Antonucci, who has won four titles in St. John's time, said the team's history gives the players a competitive edge in close sets.
"As a team we kept reminding ourselves that this is our title," Antonucci said. "We won it for six years and we want to keep it."
Kilpatrick was confident that future St. John's teams will continue the tradition of dominance in the state tournament.
"We're all proud of each other, and this is something we're hoping to continue for the next six years, and onward," Kilpatrick said.