The regular season is in the rear-view mirror for the girls’ fall sports, and both field hockey and volleyball are in win-or-go-home mode. Field hockey kicks off Tuesday afternoon, while later that night, the volleyball quarterfinals take place in two locations. Saint Mark’s and Padua are competing in field hockey, while those two schools, along with Archmere and Ursuline, are still alive in volleyball. Cross country comes to an end on Saturday at Killens Pond State Park in Felton.
No. 11 Saint Mark’s (7-7-1) at No. 6 Tower Hill (9-5-1), 2:30 p.m. The Spartans did enough to earn the 11th seed in the 12-team Division II state tournament bracket. They will take on traditional power Tower Hill on the turf at Richardson Field. Saint Mark’s has a roster on the younger side, while the Hillers rely more on veterans with a few precocious freshmen. Both the Spartans and the Hillers tend to play defensive contests. The teams did not meet in the regular season. If the Spartans defeat the Hillers, they will play at the third seed, Lake Forest, on Saturday at 11 a.m.
No. 7 Smyrna (9-5-1) vs. No. 2 Padua (12-3), 4 p.m. at Delaware Military Academy. The Pandas earned the second seed thanks to an impressive season that included games against four of the other seven teams in the Division I field, plus five games against four teams in the Division II tourney. Padua does not light up the scoreboard, but they make opponents work for every offensive opportunity. Smyrna comes out of the powerhouse Henlopen North Conference, which accounts for half the Division I field. The Eagles also played the top three seeds in the Division II bracket.
No. 7 Conrad (12-3) vs. No. 2 Saint Mark’s (14-1), 6 p.m. at the St. E Center. The Spartans bring a veteran group to the campus of St. Elizabeth School for this quarterfinal matchup. Their size is not overwhelming, but the Spartans are solid in every position. Their defense will be tested against the Red Wolves, who rotate three bigs along the front line. Offensively, Saint Mark’s will have to deal with Conrad’s back line. The teams have met just once in the past 11 seasons, and that was in the 2017 DIAA quarterfinal round.
No. 11 Red Lion (9-6) vs. No. 3 Ursuline (10-5), approx. 7 p.m. at the St. E Center. The nightcap of the doubleheader at St. Elizabeth pits the Lions, winners of seven straight, against perennial power Ursuline, who has rebounded from a midseason swoon to defeat some of the state’s best teams. The Lions played one of Delaware’s toughest schedules, with 10 tournament teams among 15 regular-season matches. They get to just about every ball defensively, and they have multiple offensive threats. The Raiders also endured a very tough schedule and have weapons all over the court. These teams last met in the second round of the 2018 tournament, a hard-fought Raiders sweep.
No. 5 Archmere vs. No. 4 Padua, approx. 7 p.m. at Saint Mark’s. The Pandas defeated the Auks, 3-0, on Oct. 18, but the tournament is another vibe altogether. Both teams feature multiple offensive options, and height is not generally a concern for either. Expect a night of booming kills, which will put the back-line defense in the spotlight. These squads play many of the same opponents year after year, and they are familiar tournament foes. The Auks and Pandas have met in the postseason in 2011, 2015 and 2017.
State championship meet, Killens Pond State Park, Felton. The girls’ Division II race begins at 1 p.m., with Division I to follow at 1:40. Ursuline is the defending D-II champion and are ready to defend that title. They will get a test from a few teams, including Saint Mark’s and Newark Charter. Padua will attempt to defend its D-I crown, but the Pandas can expect resistance from Appoquinimink and Wilmington Charter, among others.