CLAYMONT – Julia Kochie had 11 kills and 14 digs to lead Archmere past a determined Smyrna squad, 3-0, in the volleyball season opener for both teams Sept. 7 in Claymont. Set scores were 25-14, 25-17 and 26-24.
A large crowd nearly filled the Moglia Fieldhouse, and the Auks came out strong in front of their faithful. Kochie did her part as Archmere raced out to the 12-3 lead, contributing three kills during that span. But Lauren Edmiston showed she is ready to step up for the Auks. The junior big tipped one ball over the sizable Smyrna front line at one point, and she served up back-to-back aces during a six-point run.
Smyrna trimmed the lead to seven after a timeout, but the Auks put the set away with a six-point run. The Eagles’ points before and after that run both came on smashes by Kenley Cook, who had an outstanding evening for Smyrna. The Eagles saved three set points before an Auks block ended the first set.
The second set was even at five before Kochie spurred a five-point streak with an ace. Jade Bryant accounted for one of the points with a smash, Kochie delivered another ace, and Abigail Kates pushed one left to make it 10-5. The lead stayed between three and five points for a bit, as Edmiston’s strong offense offset outstanding defense up front by the Eagles’ Marqueisha Bennett, whose bandaged right hand did the majority of the blocking.
Again, an Archmere run stretched the lead. This time, the Auks ran off six in a row to make it 19-10. The Eagles struggled mightily during the set with their service receiving as Archmere’s aces and service winners piled up. Fittingly, the set ended with Bella Ganfield’s lone ace of the evening.
Any thoughts of a quick exit disappeared early in the third set as Smyrna came out looking like a different team. The Eagles jumped out to a 7-1 advantage, and two players had their hands all over that lead. Cook began the set with a push kill to the left side, and she drilled one to make it 5-0. She later added an ace to stretch the advantage to 7-1. She was aided by Bennett, who added to her stellar defense with a few nice kills.
Archmere hung close, and after a timeout, the Auks started mixing some finesse into their attempts to go through Smyrna’s front line with sheer power. The climbed back, and when Faith Merritt took Sydney Niumawaitalu’s back set and found a hole in the Eagles’ defense, the set was tied at 16.
An ace by Morgan Holman restored the Eagles’ two-point lead at 20-18, but an unforced error and a violation knotted the score once again. The teams were tied at 22, 23 and 24, but a long shot by Smyrna, followed by Edmiston’s 12th and final kill, gave the Auks the hard-earned win.
Hannah Wright led Archmere (1-0) with 16 digs, while Niumawaitalu was credited with 29 assists. The Auks combined for 12 aces. Next up is a trip to St. Elizabeth on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.
Final statistics for Smyrna were not available late Friday night. The Eagles (0-1) look for their first win on Tuesday at home at 5 p.m. when Delmar visits.