MILLTOWN – After breezing through the first set, the Saint Mark’s volleyball team had a stiffer test in the final two sets, but they managed a sweep of Smyrna, 3-0, on Sept. 13. The set scores were 25-5, 29-27 and 25-12.
The Spartans, ranked fifth in the state by 302Sports.com, went on a few long scoring runs in the first, and the outcome of that set was never in doubt. But the second set was a different story.
Brooke Dow opened the second with a booming shot down the middle to get Saint Mark’s off to a good start, but the visiting Eagles were on a mission to prove the first set was a fluke. Alexandra Faragher answered for Smyrna, sending a dig over the net that caught the Spartans off guard.
Smyrna did not go on big runs, but they steadily increased their lead. The defenders handled the smashes from Saint Mark’s Savannah Seemans and others, and big hits by Gianna Romano, Jen Sloven and Sophia Basler helped them keep even. An impressive block by Shelby Fedele, followed by three consecutive hitting errors by the Spartans, helped the Eagles build a four-point lead.
The lead grew to five at 17-12, but Saint Mark’s – backed by a sizeable student section wearing Hawaiian shirts – climbed back. Abby Thibodeau, making her first appearance of the season, scored on a kill, and Alyssa Berggrun served up an ace immediately after.
The latter stages of the set featured a great rally. Seemans sent a blast diagonally from left to right, but Sophia Basler got underneath it. Seemans tried to tip it over the block the next time, but Sloven blocked it. The Spartans’ Katie Sonchen attempted to surprise the Eagles by setting it over the net, but Basler made a diving save that resulted in a left-side smash from Romano for the point.
Emma Mayew made it 22-19 with an ace for the Eagles, who reached set point at 24-21. But after regaining the serve trailing by a pair, Saint Mark’s fought off two more set points and took the lead, 25-24, when Julia Yurkovich sent a over-the-shoulder kill into an uncovered spot.
This time, it was the Eagles who fought off three set points before the Spartans gained control. Brooke Dow gave the hosts a 28-27 lead on a smash, and a Smyrna line violation lifted the Spartans to a 2-0 lead.
The Spartans held a 9-8 lead in the third set before going on an 8-1 run, led by the powerful swings of Seemans and good all-around team defense. The lead grew, and Seemans scored the final three points for Saint Mark’s. Her ace made it 23-11, and she followed with a push from the back line on the next sequence. Following a service error, Seemans ended the match with a back-line kill.
Seemans led the way with 19 kills and 17 digs for the Spartans, who improved to 3-0. Yurkovich had six kills, and Serena Pluta had five. Pluta led the Spartans’ defense with six blocks; the team was credited with 12. Saint Mark’s returns to the court Tuesday at home at 7:15 p.m. against No. 2 Padua.
No stats were available for Smyrna. The Eagles (1-2) host Delaware Military on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.