WILMINGTON – Two of the state’s best volleyball teams met Sept. 28, and they did not disappoint. Ursuline hosted St. Mark’s in a Catholic Conference showdown, and the host Raiders left with an entertaining, hard-fought 3-1 win in front of a spirited crowd.
Set scores were 25-19, 19-25, 25-17, 25-15.
Ursuline’s depth was on display from the beginning of the match. The Raiders’ starting setter, Cassidy Markel, was not in the building, but Lauren Boysen did a stellar job in her stead. Boysen meshed with her big hitters seamlessly, finishing with 48 assists, along with 15 digs. Outside hitter Taylor Wright said Boysen has been working hard, and it showed.
“She’s been playing really well during practice, so we knew she’d be ready to take on this position,.” Wright said. “She did an amazing job. We didn’t doubt her for one second.”
Ursuline, the top-ranked team in Delaware by 302Sports.com, used its multiple weapons to build a big lead in the first set. Wright was particularly effective from the outside, and she got plenty of support from Furey, along with middles Abby Rzucidlo and Kylie Nocket. With Sydney Davis on serve mid-set, the Raiders ran off nine consecutive points to take a 21-8 lead.
The lead remained at 13 points as the Raiders reached set point at 24-11, but the Spartans would not give up. They ripped off eight straight points, including three kills from Savannah Seemans and a host of defensive gems to keep rallies alive. Wright ended any hopes of a comeback, however, with a cross-court winner.
Furey said the Raiders weren’t happy to see the fifth-ranked Spartans make that comeback, but it is something they will use as a learning tool so it doesn’t happen again.
“As the season goes on, that’s something that can’t happen. The games get too close, and the momentum gets too strong. It happened, it’s done, and we bounced back from it. We’re definitely going to learn from that,” she said.
St. Mark’s (5-2) asserted itself in the second set. The visitors used a five-point run to take a 12-5 lead. Seemans appeared to be everywhere on the court, adding a bunch of digs to her numerous kills. She sent a smash down the left sideline to make the score 15-8 just after Erin Derick surprised the Raiders with a second-hit kill the point before.
The lead got as high as nine at 18-9, but three straight kills off the hands of Ursuline’s Corinne Furey prompted St. Mark’s to call a timeout. The lead stayed around five points, and after Ursuline saved two set points, Derick kissed the end line with a kill to give the Spartans the win.
The Spartans opened the third with a 2-0 lead, but Ursuline responded with five straight, punctuated by a tip kill by Rzucidlo. The teams were tied at 6, but Furey, Wright and the Raiders cranked it up. They went on an 11-3 run and were on their way.
But St. Mark’s, again, would not go quietly. The Spartans kept up the pressure and pulled as close as 22-17. Ursuline, however, scored the last three, the final one a smash down the middle by Nocket following a long rally that included an incredible save by Sam Davis.
Wright said she was not surprised that St. Mark’s kept mounting comebacks.
“We weren’t frazzled. We knew it was going to be a tough match no matter what,” she said.
It was even in the fourth set until Ursuline scored six straight to take a 12-5 lead. The Raiders stretched the lead, and, fittingly, Wright ended the evening with a slam down the left sideline.
Both teams were supported by a large group of supporters, a fact that was not lost on Furey.
“I wish I had looked at the crowd more often, but if I do that I’m going to get my focus off. But we’re so thankful for all of the fans who come out and support us. They really make a difference. It’s really fun to play in this gym. This is Ursuline volleyball,” she said.
The 5-0 Raiders received 21 kills and nine assists from Furey. Wright contributed 17 kills, while Rzucidlo and Nocket had eight and six, respectively. Sam Davis collected 30 digs, while her sister Sydney had 15 digs and five aces. The team next plays St. Elizabeth on the road Monday at 7:!5 p.m. before a showdown Wednesday at Padua.
For St. Mark’s, Seemans was spectacular. She finished with 21 kills, five blocks, 16 digs and 15 assists. Derick added 15 kills and 13 assists. They are at Delaware Military Academy on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.