For The Dialog
MILLTOWN – No. 6 Ursuline avenged two earlier losses and swept the third-seeded Padua Pandas in the state volleyball tournament quarterfinals on Nov. 8 at St. Mark’s High School. Junior Taylor Wright led the way for the Raiders – who have just two seniors – with 11 kills and 20 digs. The set scores were 25-23, 25-20 and 25-21.
The magnitude of the match got to both teams early, as they committed several errors, but by mid-set they were playing outstanding volleyball. Padua senior Taylor Valletti had a kill and an ace to stake the Pandas to an 8-3 lead, but Wright and freshman Corinne Furey started finding holes in the Padua defense and cut the lead to 16-14.
Setter Emma Lucey caught Ursuline by surprise and dropped a nice kill to give the Pandas a 23-21 lead, but the Raiders scored the next four points , three of which came on kills by Wright, Furey and freshman Cassidy Markel.
Padua fell behind in the second set, as Raiders libero Sam Davis had an ace to help her team to a 5-2 advantage. The Pandas battled back, with junior Emily Jarome throwing in a kill and an ace to give them an 11-7 lead. The Pandas got a scare on the next point as Jarome injured her ankle during an extended rally eventually won by the Raiders.
Ursuline took advantage of Jarome’s absence, taking a 17-16, but the all-state hitter returned and delivered a kill that tied the score at 20. Ursuline dug deep and scored the next five points to take the 2-0 lead.
Jarome led an early Pandas charge with three kills to give them a 6-3 lead in the third, but the scrappy Raiders defense led the way as Ursuline crawled back into the set, eventually taking a 15-14 lead on a Markel ace. Wright then took over, as her three kills gave the Raiders a 22-16 lead. Padua fought off two match points, but a big kill by Wright sent the Raiders fans into celebration mode.
Senior setter Morgan Blasetto said the other players had a message for her and classmate Ali Kochie, the only seniors on the roster.
“The young players told Alexandra and me that they were not going to let us lose,” Blasetto said.
Ursuline’s defense was good all night, and they had four players with double-digit digs. Wright said they came in with a game plan for Jarome.
“We had a rotation defense for Emily because we knew she was going to come at us with the cross, so I just decided to stay back on it and make the plays,” she said.
Ursuline coach Sue Heiss said with a young team, she used the regular season to get ready for the tournament.
“One of the goals all season was to get better with each match,” she said. “The matches during the regular season are important, but are there just to motivate us to get ready for the tournament.”
The Raiders (13-4) face second-seeded Archmere on Thursday in the semifinals at St Mark’s following the first semifinal match between Delaware Military Academy and Tower Hill. The Raiders’ defense had 77 total digs – 19 from Davis and 12 each from Markel and Kochie.
The Pandas finished at 14-3 and got 28 digs from senior libero Maddie Judge. Jarome had 13 kills while Valletti added 4 kills and 11 digs.