WILMINGTON – On Election Night 2018, incumbents went down across the country, but at the St. E Center, the reigning volleyball state champions held on to their office for at least one more night. Ursuline, the third seed, held off the 11th seed, Tower Hill, in one of four quarterfinal matches. Set scores were 25-18, 25-17 and 25-22. It was the second straight year the Raiders ended the Hillers’ season.
In a rematch of a regular season meeting won by the Raiders, the general pattern of the three sets was similar. The teams were even through the first half of each set, only for the Raiders to pull away. But would be making things far too simple.
The Hillers, who upset No. 6 Delaware Military Academy to reach to quarterfinal, jumped out early, taking a 6-2 lead. Their senior all-stater, Maddie Sachs, was at the center of that scoring, smashing a kill, getting a ball blocked out of bounds, then delivering an ace. Marie Freebery’s first kill of the night extended their lead to four. But Ursuline stormed back, going ahead, 12-9, on a five-point run that included two kills by Grace Nordmeyer.
The margin remained in the two-to-three-point range, but with the score 18-15 Raiders, Abby Rzucidlo went straight down with a kill. Tower then committed a hitting error, and Corinne Furey served up an ace, and it was 21-15. Kylie Nocket scored the Raiders’ final four points, including three on consecutive kills to end the set.
The second set was very evenly played, with Furey and Sachs trading bombs through much of the early going. Sachs tied the set at 12 – the fourth tie of the second – with another blast, but Ursuline scored the next three and would not trail again. Furey continued her impressive play, and Nocket added back-to-back smashes to prompt a Hillers timeout with the Raiders ahead, 18-15.
The lead was still three at 20-17 after Tower’s Kyra Caffrey knocked one off the block, but the Raiders scored the next five to take a 2-0 lead. Furey scored three of those points on kills, and Emma Popham added a point on a monstrous kill. Sydney Davis wrapped it up with an ace.
No one expected the Hillers to roll over, and they came out determined to extend the match beyond a third set. Popham scored the first three points for Ursuline with two kills and a courageous block of Sachs, but Sachs blew the next one off Ursuline’s wall and followed that with an ace to knot the score at three.
The Raiders’ lead reached four, but Caffrey scored on a kill, and two hitting errors and two violations later, the Hillers had a 10-9 lead. The teams slugged it out for a stretch, and Tower knotted the score at 21 on two Ursuline hitting errors sandwiched around a Heyli Velasquez ace. Furey then dropped another bomb, and Rzucidlo pushed a ball beyond the reach of the Hillers’ defense into a corner. Tower Hill got one point back on a Raiders violation, but a service error sent it to match point, and Furey clinched it with her team-leading 13th and final kill.
Nocket finished with 12 kills and eight digs for Ursuline, while Davis led the way with nine digs. Furey, Popham and Nordmeyer each had three blocks. The Raiders improved to 15-3 and will play Archmere in the first semifinal on Thursday at 6 p.m. at St. Mark’s High School.
For Tower Hill, Sachs had 15 kills and 14 digs, while Caffrey added 12 kills. Freebery had six kills and 10 digs. The Hillers finished the season at 11-7.