MILLTOWN – After two years out of the state tournament, Ursuline’s volleyball team made a statement this season that it was back. The Raiders went 11-4 in the regular season, grabbed the fifth seed in the tournament and advanced to the semifinal round Thursday night.
The dream, however, ended at St. Mark’s High School, as the Raiders fell in straight sets to No. 1 Delaware Military Academy. Set scores were 25-13, 25-16 and 25-22.
The Raiders and Seahawks met during the regular season, with Ursuline winning the first two sets before DMA rallied to take the match. This time, there would be no such drama. DMA played extremely effective volleyball, limiting mistakes and preventing Ursuline from getting anything going.
“I don’t know,” Raiders senior Kailyn Kampert said. “I just think we really came out flat tonight and didn’t play our game. I think we’re a lot better team than we showed tonight.”
Ursuline (13-5) played DMA close for half the first set, trailing, 11-10, after a dink by eighth-grader Corinne Furey. DMA took control after that, scoring 10 of the next 12 points.
DMA (19-0) threatened to run away with the second set, taking a 17-8 lead before a Kampert spike kicked off a Raiders comeback. That was the first of seven straight Ursuline points, the last of which was a kill of an overpass by senior Nicole Raiford.
The Seahawks put an end to the UA bid behind their big hitters, junior Victoria Taylor and senior Cassie Kowalski. They did most of the damage in a set-ending 8-1 run, with Kowalski blasting the winning point. The run included consecutive aces by junior Kirsten Longueira.
“Last time we played DMA, we came out and won the first two sets. This time, we went down two early. It’s hard to come back from that, especially against a good team like DMA,” Kampert said.
But the Raiders gave it their best shot. They led, 15-11, after an ace by senior Liz Baffone, prompting DMA to call a timeout. The Seahawks climbed back, and the teams were tied as late as 21-21. Ursuline fell behind by three and fended off one match point, but junior Natalie Lavelle ended the evening with a kill down the middle to send DMA to its first final.
Taylor had 12 kills for DMA, while Kowalski had nine. For the Raiders, Kampert led the way with seven kills. Kampert, despite the disappointment of losing, was happy with the way the season went and what it meant for Ursuline. Two years ago, the Raiders were 4-11, and they missed the playoffs with an 8-7 record last year.
“I’m really proud of every girl on this team,” she said. “It was huge for us to give a name back to Ursuline volleyball, and I think our seniors will bring that with us, to leave our legacy on the school by bringing our name back.”
The Raiders will conclude their season Monday in the consolation match against Padua, whom they defeated twice during the regular season. That match will take place at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark beginning at 5:30 p.m. DMA will meet Archmere for the state championship immediately following. Tickets are $8 and available at diaa.ticketleap.com.