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Alessio Milivojevic of St. Francis threw for 3,408 yards and 40 touchdowns with just four interceptions and also scored nine TDs this season.
Tony Gadomski/for Shaw Local News Network

Editor's note: Now that the high school sports year is over, we've developed a point system based on teams' in-state rankings to measure which of the 85 high schools in the Daily Herald's circulation area had the best sports year in 2023-24. We'll announce the top five small schools this week, one per day, starting with No. 5 on Monday through No. 1 on Friday. The top five large schools will be announced next week.

The St. Francis girls volleyball team, a dynasty for decades under Peg Kopec, took the lead with a second consecutive Class 3A state title under Lisa Ston, Kopec's former assistant. In the spring, the boys volleyball team reached its first state finals tournament.

The Spartans also earned Herald Cup points in soccer, girls cross country and boys golf.

St. Francis finished first in the 2023-24 Herald Cup standings for small schools with 90 points, calculated from the teams' fall, winter and spring finishes.

How they did it

The Spartans football team (10-3), seeded eighth in the Class 5A playoffs, lost to eventual state champion Nazareth in the semifinals, avenging a 35-17 loss in the regular season.

In a close Class 2A competition, the boys golf team finished fifth, 11 strokes behind state champion Sacred Heart-Griffin.

St. Francis finished sixth in the Class 2A girls cross country championship.

The girls volleyball team (34-8) defeated Lincoln 23-25, 26-23, 26-24 in a 3A slugfest to win the title.

In their debut in the southern part of the state, the Spartans boys (28-9) lost in the quarterfinals in three sets to Loyola.

Who made it possible?

The Spartans girls volleyball team featured four DuPage All-Area selections, seniors KK Dumpit, Addy Jones and Catherine D'Orazio and junior Addy Horner. Horner and D'Orazio were 3A Illinois Volleyball Coaches Association first team selections and senior Anna Paquette was selected to the second team.

Senior Kyle Zedicker set up the Spartans' attackers, including his classmates Eddie Muller, Nick Madden and Gavin Gonzalez.

Senior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic was the Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Football captain and CCL/ESCC Orange MVP. He and senior linebacker Dom Beres were selected to the 5A All-State first team by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association.

Only freshmen Elena Mamminga and Erin Hinsdale formed a 2A mini pack in 26th and 27th place overall at Detweiller Park.

Sophomore Beckett Jones finished third in 2A boys golf, just three strokes behind the winner. Importantly for the team score, seniors Nicolas Sparacio and James Collie and juniors Cole Ahern and Braxton Harrison all finished in the top 60.

Key statistics

Milivojevic completed 73% of his passes for 3,408 yards, 40 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and ran for 331 yards and 9 touchdowns. His passing for 7,267 yards and 84 touchdowns in three seasons ranks among the top 16 in state history. Beres' 177 tackles ranked 58th in the nation, according to MaxPreps.

Equal opportunities: Dumpit finished the girls volleyball season with 311 assists, Horner with 258.

Main fact

It was the first time in Mike Lynch's 26 seasons coaching the St. Francis boys volleyball team that the Spartans reached the state finals.

Milivojevic, now at Michigan State, was voted the best quarterback in Illinois by ESPN.com, 247 Sports and On3.

With their 14th state title and 21st trophy, the St. Francis women's volleyball team trails only Mother McAuley in every category.

They said it

“It's super exciting and like a dream with these girls that I can call my family.” – Wisconsin recruit Horner after her kill kicked off the celebration of St. Francis' title win over Lincoln.

“He is the best quarterback St. Francis has ever produced,” said CCL/ESCC Orange Lawless Award-winning coach Bob McMillen about Milivojevic.

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