Facing an undefeated St. Francis team this past Thursday, the very young Franklin Lady Wildcats’ varsity volleyball team had their work cut out for them. Franklin head coach Kristen Williams knew that.

So maybe that’s why she was able to find so many positives following the contest despite losing 3-0 (25-7, 25-11, 25-13) inside the Troubadours’ home gym.

No set was ever really close as St. Francis (6-0 Delta League) showed why they are a perennial Delta League power on the night, but that wasn’t an issue for Williams. With just two seniors on this year’s team, coaching up a young and inexperienced group is all about the little things. Toughness, effort, and never letting up. Those traits were certainly on display for the Wildcats Thursday, which left their coach satisfied overall.

“I’m happy with how it went. I’m not disappointed,” Williams said. “We knew it was going to be a struggle. We knew they were bigger, stronger, and faster, so our goal was to get more points each set, compete, work hard, and fight the whole time. I thought they did that.”

Leading the effort for Franklin (2-3 Delta League) on the night was junior middle Natalie Camerino, who tallied six kills and three blocks in an all-around performance.

“She works her butt off every single match,” Williams said of Camerino. “She blocks well, she moved well. She’s a leader. She’s constantly communicating and is always positive. I’ve been super impressed with her.”

Overall, Williams was happy with the hustle her team showed despite trailing for the majority of the night. The Wildcats’ bench was vocal throughout the contest, and the players on the court never put their head down. For Williams, being able to keep the mood light and morale up even during tough games is important, and she was pleased with the effort her team put out.

“They stayed up and were excited, and that’s what we’re looking for,” she said. “I thought we served well, I thought our communication was good, and I thought we moved the ball around offensively pretty well.”

Out front for the Troubadours was senior outside hitter Alexa Edwards, who recorded 10 kills and four aces.

Williams also knows that sometimes the most valuable commodity a team can take from a game isn’t necessarily a win or a loss. Often, experience, especially for a team learning how to play together, is the biggest takeaway. Playing against a section standout like St. Francis provided Franklin just that.

“The kids play year-round and are seeing good competition year-round, but for them to see the level that St. Francis is playing at shows them that’s where we could be. That’s where our program needs to be. It’s great, especially for the younger ones, to see what hard work can do.”

Although Williams has seen a ton of growth in her team throughout this season, there are certainly inherent challenges that come with building the foundation of a program.

“Just learning how to fight,” she said. “It’s not so much that we’re a young team, it’s just that they’re girls in general. Just learning how to be competitive and be okay with being competitive. That’s our biggest problem right now.”

Franklin will look to continue improving this Tuesday when they host Pleasant Grove inside the Wildcats’ home gym at 6 p.m.