So, if you’re Padua Academy, how do you follow up a terrific volleyball campaign, one that included an undefeated regular season and a trip to the state championship match, which needed five sets to determine a winner? With five new starters and a schedule that would test even the most experienced of teams, of course.
The Pandas have established themselves as one of Delaware’s elite programs, with two state titles earlier this decade and the most recent run to the final. Replacing two first-team all-state players, plus another who was honorable mention, won’t be easy, but coach Lauren DiSabatino and her staff have always been able to work new talent into the rotation.
The lone returning starter, Jess Molen, was an honorable mention all-state as a sophomore in 2017. Mackenzie Sobczyk saw plenty of action and is back to make noise as a sophomore. Other returning players who contributed significantly to the team’s past success include Jackie Camponelli, Katelyn Ham, Grace Palaypay, Sarah Pritchard, Cassidy McClintock, Ally Stuebing and Michelle Kozicki. There are four seniors and eight juniors, so this is not exactly a young team.
In addition, two freshmen have earned varsity positions, and Padua tends to use a deep bench.
Padua’s schedule includes its three Catholic Conference foes in a home-and-home set. All made the postseason. Of their seven nonconference matches against Delaware foes, six were in the state tournament last year. They also have two quality out-of-state opponents.
Three of their first four matches are at home, followed by a five-game road trip. The Pandas finish with five of their final six at home. Kozicki loves the home-court advantage the team enjoys.
“It’s a really big advantage for us to be in the home gym because we practice in there, and it gets hot. It’s very tight, and when teams come in, they’re used to their big gyms. And they come in and our stands are packed, and I think we’re just ready to play,” she said.
Home matches in CAPS
Sept. 13, 5:30 p.m.: at Friends
Sept. 18, 7:`15 p.m.: ST. MARK’S
Sept. 20, 7:15 p.m.: WILMINGTON CHARTER
Sept. 22, 12:15 p.m.: at Paul VI (Va.)
Sept. 25, 7:15 p.m.: St. Elizabeth
Sept. 27, 7 p.m.: at Delaware Military Academy
Oct. 1, 6 p.m.: at Tatnall
Oct. 3, 7 p.m.: at Ursuline
Oct. 9, 7:15 p.m.: TOWER HILL
Oct. 13, 4 p.m.: ACADEMY OF NOTRE DAME
Oct. 16, 7:15 p.m.: ST. ELIZABETH
Oct. 19, 7:`15 p.m.: ARCHMERE
Oct. 23, 7:15 p.m.: at St. Mark’s
Oct. 25, 7:15 p.m.: URSULINE