CLAYMONT – With the state volleyball tournament set to start in less than two weeks, this is the time of the season when many programs schedule their toughest opponents. That was certainly the case on Oct. 18, when Padua visited Archmere in a battle of two of Delaware’s heavyweights. The Pandas maximized their defense and minimized their mistakes, and in the end it added up to a 3-0 win.
Set scores were 25-16, 25-20 and 25-23.
Padua opened the evening – before a full house that included what seemed like the entire Archmere student body – with a 4-0 run, although only the first point came on a kill, which came from Jackie Barnett. The Pandas steadily increased that margin as the set progressed, with the big guns up front providing smash after smash. Mackenzie Sobczyk and Michelle Kozicki scored on both kills and blocks, and Jess Molen added the timely spike. Julia Kochie and Abby Kates did their best to keep the Auks close, but after an ace from the Pandas’ Audrey Lyons, the visitors led, 18-11.
After a timeout, the teams traded big spikes, but a Peyton Sullivan ace extended Padua’s advantage to 22-13. The match went to set point on a hitting error, and after Ava Scarpaci kept the Auks’ hopes alive for one saved set point, Molen went deep down the middle for the winner.
Archmere began the second set with kills from Kochie and Hope Merritt, but the Pandas answered by scoring the next six. Kozicki had a kill and a block during that run, and Molen added two spikes. Sobczyk punctuated a four-point run by going straight down to take the score to 11-4, only to have the Auks get the next three. The Auks would get as close as two points at 16-14 when Scarpaci scored the final point of a four-point run, but Padua responded after a timeout.
The Pandas scored six of the next seven, getting contributions from several players, including Sarah Pritchard, who served up a tape ace. The Auks saved two set points this time, but a hitting error would end it.
Kozicki scored on a pair of kills as the Pandas began the third set up, 3-1. This time, however, the Auks stuck around, taking a 5-4 lead on a kill from Kochie and another from Scarpaci. With the homecoming weekend crowd in full throat, the teams put on an exhibition that could repeat itself in the postseason. Kochie was particularly effective for Archmere, tying the set three times with kills before putting her team ahead, 10-9, with another bomb.
It was knotted at 15 when the Pandas threatened to run away with the set. A thunderous kill by Molen started a run of four points, and a few minutes later, she sent a ball straight down to get it to match point, 24-20. The Auks called timeout, then went to work. Two Padua errors sandwiched around a Lauren Edmiston block cut the Pandas’ advantage to a single point, but a call for two touches brought the night to an end.
Molen paced the Pandas with 12 kills and 13 digs, along with a pair of aces. Kozicki had seven kills and three blocks, while Sobczyk added six kills and six blocks. Pritchard kept busy on defense, collecting 18 digs. Padua (11-2) hosts Saint Mark’s in their home finale on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.
Kochie had nine kills, while Kates and Scarpaci had six each for the Auks. Mackenzie Popp and Hannah Wright had 17 and 10 digs, respectively. Archmere (10-3) saw its five-match winning streak snapped; the Auks visit Ursuline on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.