NEWARK — The record will show that St. Mark’s swept Archmere, 3-0, in the state volleyball championship Nov. 13, but the final score does not tell the real story. Each of the three sets was decided by the minimum two points — 26-24, 25-23 and 25-23.
The third-seeded Spartans came from behind in all three sets, including scoring the final seven points in the first, to claim their second consecutive title at the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware.
It was the 10th overall volleyball title for St. Mark’s, second only to Ursuline’s 11, and the seventh for Spartans coach Nancy Griskowitz. The coach said the match had a familiar feel to it.
“We’ve been in that situation before,” she said. “As a matter of fact, the last time we played Archmere, we were down in the first set, and they never gave up. This team has such heart. They’re just great leaders out there and they just push to the final point.”
In the first game between the two teams on Oct. 18, St. Mark’s defeated the Auks, 3-1. It was Archmere’s only loss of the regular season. Archmere, the tournament’s top seed, finished the season 19-2, while St. Mark’s ended up 16-3.
Archmere coach Mary Pat Kwoka said, “losing absolutely stinks,” but she was proud of her team’s effort.
“St. Mark’s played very good, but I’m proud of my Archmere team. My kids showed their heart, their intestinal fortitude, their focus, their drive, their never-say-die attitude. I’m proud of them. Fantastic job they did,” she said.
The teams were neck-and-neck during the opening set, as Archmere’s big hitters, Patreece Spence and Mary Tobin, battled their counterparts from the Spartans, Abbie Mirabella and Lauren Talley.
The Auks finally got some distance, going to set point at 19-24, before Griskowitz called a timeout. After a kill by Mirabella brought St. Mark’s to within four, Archmere committed four straight unforced errors. The Spartans took the next two points to close out the first.
In the second set, Archmere got off to leads of 6-1, 9-2 and 15-10. The Spartans rallied to tie the game at 17 and took their first lead at 18-17. Archmere led, 23-22, but St. Mark’s scored the final three points after another timeout.
The third and final set was back-and-forth the entire way, with the biggest lead being three points by Archmere on three occasions. The Auks’ final lead was 22-21, but the Spartans came back with the help of two kills from Mirabella to reach match point. The Auks were able to add one more, but another Mirabella shot deflected off a defender’s hands to the floor, setting off a celebration on the court.
“The key tonight was to play as a team. We knew coming in that Archmere was going to be a good team, and we just pushed our hardest, and we won,” Mirabella said. “I think we play our best against them.”