MAGNOLIA – St. Thomas More was coming off its best-ever volleyball regular season, having won 12 of its 13 contests and earning an 11th seed and a first-round home match on Nov. 3 at Bishop Saltarelli Gymnasium. But No. 22 Delmar was not impressed, going home with a 3-0 sweep over the Ravens. The set scores were 25-18, 25-21 and 26-24.
Delmar, which earned its tournament berth as champions of the Henlopen South conference, was ready to go from the jump, taking a 9-1 first-set lead after three straight aces by Carly Covington. St. Thomas More responded, closing to within two on two occasions, both on aces. The first, to make the score 16-14 Delmar, came from Sarah Reeves, and the second was served up by Logan Hughes that made it 19-17.
But the Wildcats did not fold, closing the first with a 6-1 run. Five of those were courtesy of unforced St. Thomas More errors, the other off the arm of Avery Wheatley, who finished with nine kills to lead the Wildcats.
The Ravens, who were playing without injured senior standout Sarah Pool, cleaned up their game in the second set and held a small lead early. Delmar tied it at 7 on an ace by Wheatley, and the teams were knotted six more times before the visitors opened up a narrow lead. Wheatley was the principal weapon for the Wildcats, while Hughes kept the Ravens in the hunt with a soft kill and two aces.
St. Thomas More took a two-point advantage at 19-17 on a Gillian Crawford ace, but Delmar fought back by scoring the next seven points. During that run, Aizha Brown scored twice, once by smacking down an overpass, followed by a tip kill over the block. The Ravens fought off two set points, but the set ended in an identical manner as the first, on an unforced error.
The teams were tied at each point between one and eight to open the third before a St. Thomas More streak – spurred by a nifty back set for a point by Crawford – went ahead, 12-8. It was 18-14 when Delmar again went on a run, this one a five-pointer that included an ace by Bashia Korten.
A Wheatley smash, followed by a block by Elizabeth Bragdon, gave Delmar a 22-20 advantage, and the Wildcats had their first match point at 24-23 on a tip kill by Brown. Crawford answered with a tip of her own to level the set, but the Wildcats clinched the set and match on a pair of unforced errors.
The Ravens finished the season at 12-2. Delmar advances to the second round and will meet sixth-seeded Ursuline on Saturday at Brandywine High School. The teams met on Oct. 15 in Wilmington, with the Raiders earning a 3-0 sweep. The match will follow the Appoquinimink-No. 3 Padua contest, which will begin at 5 p.m. The 19th-seeded Jaguars advanced with a 3-1 victory over No. 14 Cape Henlopen on Nov. 3 at St. Thomas More.
The Jaguars took the first two sets against Cape in convincing fashion, 25-12 and 25-17, but the Vikings came alive in the third set. They unleashed a multi-pronged offensive attack in opening up a 16-5 lead. The advantage was 21-12 after a kill by Sophia Spinelli, but the Jaguars ran off the next five points during a streak that included both a service winner and an ace delivered by Caelan Brooks. Cape would go on to a 25-19 win, setting up an epic fourth.
Much like the first set, Appoquinimink blew out of the gates, leading 7-1 before Cape mounted the comeback. The teams were tied at 12, 13, 16, 17 and 18, but the Jags scored the next five to take what seemed to be a safe 23-18 lead. Cape was down, 24-19, but fought off five match points to knot it up. Cape sent it to set point five straight times, but each time, Appoquinimink re-tied the score. Carly Burns served up the last of her four aces to put the Jaguars ahead, 30-29, only to see Cape Henlopen erase a sixth match point. But the Jags used an unforced error to go in front, 31-30, and this time, they would not be denied. Megan Aube delivered a service winner, sending Appo into the second round.