WILMINGTON – Archmere, playing its first match since losing a five-set marathon at Wilmington Friends on Tuesday night, came out with a purpose on Oct. 21, sweeping host Padua in convincing fashion. Set scores were 25-21, 25-22 and 25-17 in front of a rocking sellout crowd that turned out to watch the two two teams in Delaware battle just a week before the end of the regular season.
The top-ranked Auks used a balanced attack and perhaps their finest defensive effort of the season to take down the No. 2 Pandas. Lexi Kelly led the way with nine kills, while Julia Kochie and Faith Merritt added seven apiece. Kochie also played stellar defense, collecting 13 digs. Archmere used superb positioning all night to counter the effectiveness of Padua’s all-state hitter, Emily Jarome, which also led to a number of uncharacteristic errors on the Pandas.
The first half of set one gave a glimpse of what was to come. Kelly picked up two kills and a block, and Padua committed five unforced errors as the Auks went ahead, 10-3. Ella Welsh paced a Pandas comeback, scoring on two kills and a pair of blocks during a five-point run that brought her team within 14-12. Archmere responded with a 10-2 run to take a 23-15 lead, the final point coming on an ace by Kochie. Padua cut the lead to four, but Grace Merritt ended the set with a tip.
Padua (11-2), which did not hold a lead in either the first or third sets, held a 10-7 advantage in the second set after a booming kill off the right hand of Courtney Scott, who spelled an injured Taylor Valletti. A seven-point run reversed the situation. Several Auks contributed during the comeback, including Amy Thomson, Kochie and Kelli with kills, and Padua called a timeout. The closest the Pandas would come in the set was 22-20 on a huge kill from Jarome, whose two or three previous kill attempts had been dug. Service errors plagued Padua all night, and one ended the second set.
Archmere (12-1) was ahead, 6-0, in the third and sensed a sweep was near. Kelly kept up her assault, and Faith Merritt emerged as a force with three kills late in the set. One point that is indicative of how things went for Archmere came near the end. Jarome crushed a ball as hard as any all night, but an Auk was there for the dig. The ball bounced off the hands of the Archmere player and floated back over the net, where the Pandas could only watch as it fell between three defenders. Kochie scored the clinching kill on a cross-court smash that went off a hand and into the bleachers.
Mackenzie Popp led the Auks with 21 digs, while Kaylie Leclerc added 12. Archmere wraps up its regular season with two matches next week, the first of which is Wednesday at 6:45 p.m. at A.I. DuPont, and the finale next Saturday vs. Tower Hill at 12:15 p.m.
For Padua, Jarome finished with 15 kills and 23 digs. Scott finished with 10 digs, and Maddie Judge was the anchor on defense with 25 digs. The Pandas are at St. Mark’s on Tuesday before finishing the regular season Thursday at home vs. Ursuline. Both matches begin at 7:15 p.m.