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Auks volleyball returns nucleus, excited about possibilities

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Dialog reporter

 

At Archmere, it’s business as usual for the Auks, which means one of the toughest schedules in the state and a likely high seed come tournament time. The Auks won the state title in 2014, reached the final in 2015 and fell to Ursuline, 3-2, in last year’s semifinal round.

Archmere lifts the lid on the 2017 slate with a tough trip to Smyrna this afternoon at 5 p.m.

Archmere volleyball, under the watchful eye of coach Mary Pat Kwoka (left), is focused on another successful campaign. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

The nucleus of last season’s 15-3 squad returns for coach Mary Pat Kwoka. Five seniors graduated, but the Auks have plenty of talent back. The Kelly twins, Nikki and Lexi, join Amy Thomson, Julia Kochie and Mackenzie Popp up front. Sydney Niumataiwalu is a mainstay on the back line and will move into the setter’s role.

“We’re working real hard on our setters because we had to replace two senior setters. Lexi and Nikki Kelly are showing great leadership. Amy and Anna Stover are doing a real nice job of keeping the players focused, in tune with the drills,” Kwoka said.

Lexi Kelly said the Auks balance their senior experience with some great talent among the underclassmen. The current roster has worked hard, and optimism was the order of the day in late August.

“We feel pretty good so far. Everyone seems to be getting into the swing of things. We have one freshman who already seems comfortable with everyone on the team,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine Archmere’s schedule getting harder than it had been in the past, but the addition of Wilmington Charter and Red Lion to the Diamond State Athletic Conference makes that league the most stacked in the state. Aside from those two and Smyrna, the Auks have to travel to Cape Henlopen, St. Mark’s, Tower Hill, Newark Charter, DMA and Ursuline. They get Conrad, Wilmington Friends and Padua at home. The opener takes them to Smyrna on Sept. 8 at 5 p.m.

Lexi Kelly said the Auks are ready to play an even tougher conference slate. “Last year was the first year since I’ve been here that we even won the conference, and that was without all these people joining. We’re looking forward to the competition.”

So is her coach.

“I think our conference is very tough this year,” Kwoka said. “It’s going to be competitive. I hope we’re competitive with them. I love the chemistry in the gym; I love the focus in the gym. I like what I’m seeing.”