WILMINGTON — Ursuline’s volleyball team got key contributions from a number of players and surprised Newark Charter in the first set of their match Oct. 5, but the Patriots — the state’s third-ranked team by Delaware Live/302Sports — overcame a stiff challenge on the road and left with a 3-1 victory over the No. 5 Raiders.
Set scores were 20-25, 25-22, 25-22, and 25-18. Newark Charter remained undefeated with the win.
In what would become a theme for the night, the Patriots jumped out to an early lead, 8-3, but the Raiders were not deterred. A five-point run that concluded with a block, then a kill by Ava Panunto, tied the score, and Ursuline eventually took a three-point lead on a cross by Cecilia Decaro.
Newark Charter pulled to within a pair at 17-15, but Hannah Kelley scored on a smash, which sent her back to the service position. No problem. She delivered an ace, and Panunto followed with a surprise attack on a second hit to boost the lead to 20-15. It grew to six, but the Patriots cut that in half, with the final point coming on an Aubrey Celeste ace that cut the Raiders’ advantage to 23-20. After an Ursuline timeout, Panunto scored off the block, and a Kelley block ended the set.
The second set was tied at 6 when the Patriots went on a five-point run. The first of those came on a Raiders error, but four different players scored for the Patriots after that: McKenna Ritchie nailed a back-line kill, Sara Shuts found a seam in the Raiders’ defense, Gillian Burrows delivered an ace, and Celeste had a block.
The lead grew to 20-11 before Ursuline mounted a comeback. Samiah Sudler-Brooks got things started with a third-chance kill after a series of unlikely digs by both teams. A 7-1 Raiders run, capped by a long push kill from Faith Kleitz, prompted a timeout for Newark Charter. Celeste scored the first two points after the timeout, and the Raiders called for time. They scored four straight, the final point coming on a stuffed overpass by Katherine Kardash, but the Patriots finished out the set on a block from Emily Turner to knot the score at a set each.
The Raiders had a 10-7 lead early in the third, with Kleitz accounting for four of those on kills of varying ferocity. Turner helped the Patriots tie it at 10, and the teams were tied as late as 17-17 before Newark Charter gained some separation.
Consecutive smashes by Turner made it 22-19, and though the Raiders were able to get back to within a point at 23-22 on a Kardash block, Celeste sent it to set point with a slam, and Turner gave her team the set with an ace.
Turner continued her hot play into the fourth, with a big kill and another ace helping Newark Charter get out to an 8-4 lead. The Raiders cut that to a single digit at 13-12, but the Patriots turned the tide of the set after that.
A dink by Angela Steinkrauss began a run of seven straight. Before a Patriots attack error ended the run, the score was 20-12. Turner and Celeste added kills to extend the lead to 22-13 when, again, Ursuline fought back. After a service error by Newark Charter, Panunto caught fire. She had a pair of blocks, then went down the right sideline for a kill. Her next shot went off the Patriots’ front line to cut the visitors’ lead to 22-18.
But those would be the final points scored by the Raiders. Shuts sent a shot off the Raiders’ block before picking up a block to send it to match point. Celeste brought the night to an end with her final kill.
Turner and Celeste each had 16 kills for the Patriots. Turner added four aces and Celeste three, while Ritchie led the way with 17 digs. Newark Charter (8-0) hosts Conrad on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Final statistics were not available late Tuesday night for Ursuline. The Raiders (5-3) travel to Lewes to meet Cape Henlopen on Saturday at 1:15 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.