The high school volleyball season serves up its first action on Friday, and Archmere is not wasting any time in launching its pursuit of a state title. The Auks open at home at 5:15 p.m. against the defending Henlopen North Conference champions, the Smyrna Eagles.
As in any high school program, the faces change on a yearly basis, but Archmere consistently remains among the state’s elite. The team returns four seniors this year and also features a number of juniors and a sophomore who contributed to the team’s success last year. In addition, they welcome a sophomore transfer, and two freshmen cracked the varsity roster.
One of the seniors, setter Sydney Niumawaitalu, said the consistency fans have come to expect from Archmere volleyball stems from the program’s longtime leader, coach Mary Pat Kwoka.
“We have the same coach and the same structure, and she expects the same out of every team no matter who we have,” she said.
Niumawaitalu will be setting a cadre of strong veteran hitters, including Julia Kochie, Jade Bryant and Lauren Edmiston. Defensively, they can rely on Hannah Wright and Mackenzie Popp. The transfer, Bella Ganfield, is a strong passer, Niumawaitalu said.
She added that the Auks remain strong thanks to their hard work and dedication from every girl on the team.
“One of our biggest things is our conditioning and staying in shape. When we play those tough games, we’re still up here,” Niumawaitalu said, holding her hand up high, “and we have a really deep bench, so anyone will be ready to play.”
The Auks’ schedule is filled with title contenders. They play in the very tough Diamond State Athletic Conference, which includes Conrad, Delaware Military Academy, Wilmington Charter, Red Lion and Newark Charter. The nonconference slate, besides Smyrna, features home matches against Cape Henlopen, St. Mark’s, Tower Hill and Ursuline, and they travel to Friends and Padua.
Kochie said the tough road means the team will need the support of its rabid student fan base.
“Every game, every person, even though you’re sitting on the bench, you’ve just got to put it all in all the time. We need everyone’s energy, and working as a team is really important,” she said.
Home matches in CAPS
Sept. 7, 5:15 p.m.: SMYRNA
Sept. 11, 6:45 p.m.: at St. Elizabeth
Sept. 13, 6:15 p.m.: WILMINGTON CHJARTER
Sept. 18, 5 p.m.: at Conrad
Sept. 20, 5:15 p.m.: at Friends
Sept. 22, 11 a.m.: CAPE HENLOPEN
Sept. 25, 6:15 p.m.: ST. MARK’S
Sept. 28, 6:15 p.m.: at Red Lion
Oct. 1, 6:15 p.m.: MOT CHARTER
Oct. 3, 6:15 p.m.: TOWER HILL
Oct. 5, 6:15 p.m.: NEWARK CHARTER
Oct. 12, 6:15 p.m.: DELAWARE MILITARY ACADEMY
Oct. 16, 6:15 p.m.: at First State Military Academy
Oct. 19, 7:15 p.m.: at Padua
Oct. 23, 6:15 p.m.: URSULINE