MILLTOWN – Ursuline needed five sets to get past Wilmington Charter in the quarterfinal round of the Delaware high school volleyball tournament, and the Raiders found themselves behind in their semifinal match against Tower Hill after losing the first set on Nov. 9 at St. Mark’s High School. But the third-seeded Raiders bounced back, winning the next three sets to defeat the No. 2 Hillers and advance to the championship on Monday.
“We didn’t get down on ourselves at all,” senior libero Sam Davis said. “We were thinking it’s go time, it’s now or never. There’s nothing we can lose. Let’s just go after it. We played really well after that.”
The Raiders won by scores of 22-25, 25-17, 25-17, and 25-20. They will seek their first title since 2009 at the Bob Carpenter Center against nemesis Padua, which defeated St. Mark’s in the other semifinal. It will be the sixth meeting between the two schools in the championship, the first since 2012.
Ursuline used its height advantage and multiple weapons to neutralize the Hillers beginning in the second set. The Hillers had a 5-2 advantage after a smash by Marie Freebery, but the Raiders struck back. Taylor Wright served up a pair of aces, and Corinne Furey and Kylie Nocket were effective on the front line. Both Furey and Nocket scored during a four-point run that gave Ursuline a 14-10 lead, and the margin stayed in the two- to four-point range until late in the set.
Freebery brought Tower within five at 21-16 with a tip over the Raiders’ wall, but the Hillers got just one more in the set. With the score 23-17, Wright went cross court into the corner, and after a nice rally, she blew one down the middle for the win.
The Raiders ran out to a 20-11 lead in the third set on an ace by Wright. It was 22-17, and Nocket smashed one down the middle. Wright scored off the Hillers’ block, a point made possible thanks to an incredible dig by Davis. A block of Tower Hill standout Maddie Sachs ended the set, and Ursuline took a 2-1 lead.
The teams were close in the fourth, but an ace by Wright sent the score to 17-12 and elicited a Hillers timeout. Sachs and Freebery scored on kills out of the timeout to make it a three-point set. Ursuline promptly got the lead to six at 21-15 on a smash by Corinne Furey, but it was not over yet. Three straight Tower points made it 22-19, but a service error from the Hillers gave the Raiders another point.
Sachs dented the floor with a kill for the Hillers’ final point. Wright was blocked on her next kill attempt, but she would not be denied the next time around. An unforced error ended the match.
The Raiders knew they were watching something special in Wright.
“I have been so blessed to play with her these last four years. We play club together. She’s my rider guy on this team, and I’ve loved playing with her. She’s a fantastic player and a fantastic teammate,” Davis said.
Wright and Furey each had 19 kills, while Wright added 17 digs and seven aces. Davis led the way with 20 digs. The Raiders (16-2) lost twice to Padua this season, but they took the Pandas to five sets the first time and four sets the second.
“I’m more than excited,” Davis said. “Last year, we really didn’t expect it. I don’t think we were as ready as we are this year. We’re going to go after it with all we have, and we’re just ecstatic.”
Sachs finished with 22 kills and 33 digs for the Hillers, who finished 16-2. Libero Abby Carpenter had 52 digs. They will play St. Mark’s in the consolation match Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center. Tickets are available at www.statechamps.com/diaa.