Green Machine: Two Great Irish Days

In one of the greatest two-day spans in Sacred Heart Cathedral sports history, the girls volleyball team captured the program’s first WCAL regular season title, followed the next night by the Irish football squad taking the first leg of the Bruce-Mahoney in a thrilling victory over archrival Saint Ignatius.

With one state title, a WCAL tournament championship, five Norcal championships, and numerous sectional titles to their credit, the one thing coach Margi Beima’s legendary volleyball program had never accomplished was winning the WCAL regular season title. That changed Thursday night as the Irish’s 3-1 victory over second place Saint Ignatius clinched the championship with two matches to spare. Perhaps most impressive, the squad is undefeated in league play, an astounding 8-0 in arguably California’s toughest league.

Against a gritty and talented Wildcat unit, SHC’s girls simply squeezed the life out of their opponent, attacking repeatedly from everywhere on the court and exposing defensive gaps with tough and strategic serving. Coming back strong from a nagging injury, junior Megan Lenn was outstanding at the net, making numerous blocks and thundering down kills through, outside, and over multiple blockers. Amongst a number of other stars, senior Lauren Sera played her usual spectacular all-around game, bringing defense, smooth serving, and back-row attacks to the fight, repeatedly styming SI momentum. Setter Alden Standley not only ran a brilliant offense, but also led the Irish with 27 of the team’s 105 digs on the match. Bringing the loudest roar from the raucous SHC crowd, however, was the return to the court of senior defensive specialist Kelsey Yew, out since the middle of last season with a torn ACL. Her perseverance and strength in returning from injury were rewarded with court time as the Irish closed out the match, a resounding Skylar Canady kill rebounding off a Wildcat defender to near the Pavilion ceiling. The Irish are 24-5 overall, 8-0 in league, ranked #10 in the state, and in the top 50 teams nationally.

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In only his second year as head football coach, Barry McLaughlin is rapidly establishing his own legacy, leading the Irish to the CCS playoffs last year and now defeating Saint Ignatius two years in a row, including a Friday night’s breathtaking victory at storied Kezar Stadium, nestled at the lip of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

In the 95th edition of this legendary rivalry, senior Anthony Heard rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, Levar Watkins Jr. caught the winner with 3:48 left in the fourth quarter, and the Irish defense held strong down the stretch, keeping the ‘Cats out of the end zone in a wild 26-21 victory. Most impressively, the winning touchdown was thrown by sophomore Cian Dowling, a recent transfer student from Saint Ignatius starting his first game for the Irish.

Trailing 14-7 at half, the Irish stormed back to take a 20-14 lead with 10 minutes left on a Heard five yard run. Saint Ignatius countered to take a 21-20  lead minutes later, setting up a thrilling finale. Taking possession with a little over 3 minutes on the clock, Heard busted a 46 yard sprint around right end, almost going all the way, to put the Irish in the red zone. The Irish momentarily were stalled by penalties, including a call that waved off an apparent go-ahead TD to Watkins. On the next play, however, Dowling returned to Watkins for the score, and the euphoric Fightin’ Irish throng erupted into celebration. With the win, Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory improved to 3-3 and, most importantly, got the leg up on retaining the hallowed Bruce-Mahoney trophy, awarded to the winner of two of the three men’s contests covering football, basketball, and baseball.

To view the entire game broadcast, go to SHCtv and view the Bay Area Online Sports Network coverage of the game.

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