WILMINGTON – Top-ranked Archmere and No. 2 Padua brought a combined 24-1 record into their nonconference volleyball match Oct. 19 on North Broom Street. The Auks came in without a loss this season, but after a stellar defensive effort and behind a balanced offense, the Pandas defended their home court with a tough 3-0 sweep. Set scores were 25-18, 26-24, and 25-21.
A capacity crowd filled Padua’s gymnsium, including a large contingent of girls wearing purple. They were treated to a solid display of volleyball that could be a preview of a late-round state tournament matchup.
The Pandas fell behind very early in the first set by a 3-2 score when Archmere’s Lauren Edmiston powered a kill off the tape. But they scored the next five points, the last one on a block by Mackenzie Sobczyk, and the Pandas were on their way. Jess Molen paced the attack in the set, including a kill made possible by superb digs from Katie Ham and Sarah Pritchard during an extended rally.
Trailing by six, the Auks called a timeout midway through the frame, and they responded with three straight once play resumed, with Edmiston scoring two of those on smashes down the middle. But Padua was not rattled, and the Pandas gradually pulled away before winning on a hitting error.
The Pandas jumped out early in the second, going ahead, 4-1, on a service error, a Molen kill, another Sobczyk block, and one more Molen blast. The Auks ended that run, but Padua responded with three straight, including an ace from Audrey Lyons. The lead grew as big as eight after Molen was blocked out of bounds.
But the Auks did not fold. Kochie was outstanding as the Auks made their comeback, and she was not alone, as they closed the gap to four at 19-15. The Pandas restored the six-point advantage thanks to an Archmere service error and an ace from Cassidy McClintock, but the Auks had one last run in them. Four straight, including a Jade Bryant kill, prompted a Padua timeout. Bryant went deep with another kill out of the timeout, making it 21-20 Pandas. The teams traded points before Padua reached set point at 24-21.
Edmiston got the first one back with a huge swing, and Kochie followed by stuffing a Padua overpass. A hitting error knotted the score, and the large Archmere fan base was in full throat. But the set ended two points later, both Molen kills.
Again in the final set, Padua threatened to pull away. They went in front, 13-6, when Jackie Camponelli sent a shot through the Auks’ wall. Archmere scored six of the next seven to get back into it. Abby Kates started the run with a kill, and Edmiston added a block. Sydney Niumawaitaly delivered an ace, and Jade Bryant’s block made it 14-12.
The Auks got as close as one point at 20-19 on a crosscourt winner from Kates, but the Pandas’ Grace Palaypay spoiled two great Archmere saves with a kill on the next point. Palaypay would add three more kills as the advantage went to 23-20, and a hitting error pushed it to match point. Edmiston saved one with a huge block, but Kozicki returned the favor, swatting down the Auks’ final swing as the Pandas’ fans erupted.
Molen led the way for Padua with 12 kills, and she added 13 digs. Kozicki had eight kills and three blocks, while Sobczyk had seven kills and four blocks. The Pandas (12-1) are on the road at St. Mark’s on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. before ending the regular season two nights later at home against Ursuline, also at 7:15.
For the Auks, Kochie had 12 kills, six blocks and 14 digs. Edmiston went for 10 kills and five blocks. Hannah Wright had 13 digs. They are 13-1 with one match to play, and that will be at home Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. against Ursuline.