PIKE CREEK – Archmere and Ursuline put on quite a show in the first semifinal of the DIAA state volleyball tournament on Nov. 8 at St. Mark’s High School. The teams split the first two sets before the Auks pulled away for a 3-1 win and a berth in the state championship match on Monday night in Newark.
Set scores were 26-24, 21-25, 25-18 and 25-19. The teams put on a show complete with monster hits and improbable defense, and the errors were held to a minimum. In the end, Archmere ensured that there will be a new champion this season.
Archmere trailed in the first set, 3-2, before running off the next six points. That streak included Lauren Edmiston smacking one off the Raiders’ wall, two kills for Julia Kochie, and a Mackenzie Popp ace. The Raiders fought back, with Abby Rzucidlo throwing down a bunch of kills and adding an ace of her own. Kylie Nocket was the next Raider to step up. Three kills and a block by the junior tied the set at 13, thrilling the near-capacity crowd.
Three straight kills by Corinne Furey gave the Raiders a 16-14 advantage, but by 18 the teams were tied. There would be ties as well at 19, 20, 21 and 23. An Edmiston block gave the Auks set point, but the Raiders answered for another tie, this time at 24. Kochie sent a kill to the corner for the one-point lead and another set point, and a hitting error gave the set to Archmere.
Furey and Rzucidlo were on fire early in the second, and consecutive kills of Auks overpasses by Grace Nordmeyer and Cassidy Markel staked Ursuline to a 9-4 lead. But that’s as big as the lead would be, as the Auks got contributions from multiple players on both offense and defense to stick close. Jade Bryant scored on a kill to make it 18-17 in favor of the Raiders, and a miscommunication by Ursuline tied the score.
This time, the Raiders would prevail at the end. Nocket and Emma Popham had kills during a three-point mini-run, and Nocket added an ace a bit later. The set ended on an Archmere net violation and an unforced error.
It was another tight one in the third. Popham, Furey and Nocket went toe-to-toe with Kochie and Abby Kates as the Raiders took a 10-8 lead. Faith Merritt touched the end line with a kill, and Edmiston scored on a block to knot the set. Popp served up an ace, and after a Raiders hitting error, she went deep with a kill. She followed with one more ace, completing a six-point run that put the Auks in front for good.
Nocket and Furey did their best to keep the Raiders close, but Hannah Wright had consecutive aces to send it to set point at 24-17, and after Nocket killed one for the Raiders, Edmiston finished it up with a bomb to give Archmere the 2-1 lead.
The final set was tied, 7-7, when the Auks broke out. Kochie was blocked out of bounds, and she followed that with two straight aces. Bryant scored on a tip, and Ursuline committed a violation and a hitting error. Nocket stopped the bleeding temporarily with another kill.
Furey cut the lead to two at 14-12 with a smash, but that would be as close as the Raiders would get. A variety of players would help them extend the lead to 22-16, but the final two Auks points came on a tip by Bryant and a blast from Edmiston.
Kochie had 20 kills, three blocks and 14 digs to pace the Auks. Bryant had eight kills, while Edmiston had seven kills and five blocks. Wright 18 digs, while Sydney Niumataiwalu added 13 digs, and Kates had seven blocks. The Auks improved to 17-1. They will meet Wilmington Charter on Monday at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center. Tickets are $8 and available at www.statechamps.com.
Archmere defeated the Force in four sets on Sept. 13. The Auks are seeking their first championship since 2014, when they also took on Charter.
Ursuline was led by Nocket and Furey with 18 kills each, while Nocket had 18 digs and Furey 17. Rzucidlo had 11 kills, while Popham added nine. Sydney Davis led in digs with 24, and Markel had 14. The Raiders finished the season 15-4.