The first state tournament to open play this fall is volleyball, which tips off Wednesday at four schools across the state. First-round action continues Thursday, with the second round scheduled for Friday and Saturday. All matches are set for 6:30 p.m.
Four Catholic high schools will vie for the title, with two-time defending champion Saint Mark’s topping the quartet as the third seed. Archmere is right behind them at fourth. Both have first-round byes. Padua and Ursuline are both in the Spartans’ half of the bracket, seeded 18th and 19th, respectively.
Smyrna is the top seed. The Eagles are the only team to defeat Saint Mark’s this year. Delmarva Christian is the second seed. The quarterfinals will be held as doubleheaders at the St. E Center and Saint Mark’s on Nov. 8, with the semifinals two days later at Saint Mark’s. The championship is set for Nov. 14 at the Bob Carpenter Center.
No. 18 Padua (5-10) at No. 15 Indian River (10-5). The Pandas have played for the state championship the last three seasons, but this was a different kind of campaign for the Pandas. They returned just one full-time starter this year and took some lumps against perhaps the state’s most challenging schedule. Their strength of schedule earned them a berth in the tourney. Hitters Mary Mancini and Aanya Yatavelli pace the Pandas against the Indians, champions of the Henlopen South conference. The Pandas’ defense will need to stop IR’s big hitters, Scarlett Dunn and Camryn Ehlers. The winner will play at No. 2 Delmarva Christian on Friday.
No. 19 Ursuline (6-9) at No. 14 Tatnall (9-6). Another traditional high school contender is in an unfamiliar position, playing on the road in the first round. The Raiders will not have to travel far, but they will have a test in the Hornets, who are in the postseason for the first time since 2017. Ursuline, under new coach Jen Johnson, brings the heat with an offense led by Hannah Kelley and Faith Kleitz. Tatnall will counter with a talented front that includes Emma Kirby and, in the back, libero Nancy Evans.
Winner of Ursuline-Tatnall at No. 3 Saint Mark’s (14-1). The Spartans closed the season with five straight wins after the loss to Smyrna. The most recent one was a sweep of Ursuline on Oct. 29. They have not played Tatnall. Saint Mark’s features player-of-the-year candidate Julia Yurkovich and libero Taylor Holly. The Spartans may be without a significant portion of their rowdy student section as the football team will be playing at the same time across campus at the Graveyard. An early arrival might be a good idea.
Winner of No. 20 Dover-No. 13 Cape Henlopen at No. 4 Archmere (12-3). The Auks have won nine of their past 10 matches, with the lone loss coming to Saint Mark’s. This talented, deep team features several options up front, including Katie Kuehl and Abby Garcia. They have not played either Dover or Cape Henlopen. Should Cape win, the second-round game would represent a homecoming for Vikings coach Tyler Coupe and his assistant, his mother Pam. Tyler Coupe graduated from Salesianum, and he and his mother were assistants at Ursuline before moving to Sussex County.