WILMINGTON — Padua was looking to head into the state volleyball tournament on a winning note, and the Pandas will be doing just that after a 3-0 sweep of rival Ursuline on Oct. 28. Set scores were 25-9, 25-21, and 25-18.
It was Senior Night on Broom Street, and a packed house was on hand to witness the latest battle between the neighboring schools. They saw a match that had two distinct feels, although both of those ultimately favored the Pandas.
The first set was all Padua as they set the tone early with a 5-1 start. They took advantage of some Ursuline miscues to build on that lead, and put it pretty much out of reach with a 5-0 run that ended on a Peyton Sullivan ace that made it 15-5. Meghan Peters added a few kills as the set progressed, and Mary Mancini’s block finished it off.
The second set had a completely different feel for most of its duration. The Raiders stayed with the Pandas for nearly the entire set, with the biggest lead being two until the latter stages.
Both teams received contributions from several players as the set unfolded. Samiah Sudler-Brooks had an early cross for the Raiders’ first point, but Kate Kardash and Hannah Kelley also scored. For Padua, Mancini contributed a few big swings, and her fellow front-liners Peters, Sullivan and Morgan Bond took turns scoring. The score was tied six times between 1-1 and 8-8.
Bond gave Padua a 14-12 lead with a straight-down bomb, but the Raiders answered and tied it on an ace from Kardash. The teams traded the next six points, with the Pandas taking three one-point leads, only to watch their opponents tie it up. But an attack by Olivia Staats that was blocked out of bounds put Padua up to stay at 18-17.
They would score four more times before Ursuline called a timeout down, 22-17. The Padua run ended at five, and the Raiders managed to get back to within a pair at 23-21. But Bond scored down the middle, and an attack error ended the set.
Padua opened the third on a 7-0 run, a streak that started with a Staats blast and ending with a powerful Mancini kill. The Raiders rebounded with four straight, and a few minutes later, a kill by Cecilia Decaro brought the visitors to within two at 11-9.
The Pandas, however, scored 11 of the next 13 points to extend the advantage to 10, using their height on the front line to devastating effect. A 6-0 run that made it 22-11 included an ace from Audrey Lyons, followed by kills from Peters and Mancini, and punctuated by Staats smashing down an overpass. Ursuline saved two match points before Sullivan knocked one off the Raiders’ block to the floor.
Bond finished with a match-high nine kills, while Peters added eight. Sullivan had four aces. The Pandas wrapped the regular season at 11-4 and are expected to earn a first-round bye in the state tournament.
Sudler-Brooks and Kelley each had four kills for the Raiders, who are 7-6. They will host Saint Mark’s on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the last regular-season match in the state for 2021.
All photos by Mike Lang.