MILLTOWN — Dover’s volleyball team had one of its most successful seasons in memory, and the Senators brought the heat to Padua in the teams’ DIAA quarterfinal matchup on Nov. 9. The seventh-seeded Senators hung tough, holding a lead late in the third set, but the No. 2 Pandas came back in that one to take a 3-0 sweep, advancing to the semifinal round on Nov. 11.
Set scores were 25-17, 25-18, and 25-21.
The teams battled well into the first set, with the score tied seven times between 1-1 and 9-9. Dover held a 9-8 lead before a Senators violation knotted the score, and that was the first of seven straight Pandas points. Olivia Staats won a 50-50 skirmish at the net to make it 10-8, and Mary Mancini also had a kill, followed by a Staats block, later in the run.
The lead grew to eight at 18-10 before Dover climbed to within 20-15 on consecutive Pandas errors, but the Pandas righted the ship and took the set on a service error.
Kimberly Czepukaitis opened the second set with a bomb to put Dover on top, but Mancini and Peyton Sullivan answered for the Pandas, accounting for four of the team’s first five points as they took a 5-2 lead. The Senators rebounded for a 7-7 tie before Padua once again gained some separation.
A service error put the Pandas on top to stay, but they were just getting started. Morgan Bond and Meghan Peters went back-to-back with big kills, and Sullivan added an ace to extend the lead to 11-7. After an unforced Dover error, Peters smashed one hard down the middle to increase the lead to six before Senators freshman Elizabeth Baughman stopped the run with a nice cross.
But another run, this one for three points that concluded with a Mandy Quinn ace, extended the lead to seven. Dover, led by Czepukaitis, fought back to within three, but a Bond attack ended the set.
Another smash by Czepukaitis gave the Senators the 1-0 lead in the third, and this time, Dover built on the advantage, taking an early 3-1 lead. Kendra Williams accounted for the second and third points with a pair of big kills. The lead was 7-5 when Padua again went on a run. Sullivan began the streak with a kill, and Kira Hearn added an ace two points later, followed by a trio of Senators errors. Olivia Czepukaitis ended the run at six, kicking off a 5-0 Dover run to put them back on top by a point.
Staats and Peters helped the Pandas rebound, but the set remained tight. Dover tied the score once again at 16 on a blast by Emma Hodgson, and setter Olivia Anyanwu surprised the Pandas by attacking on a second hit to make it 17-16 Senators.
Dover led, 20-19, before the Pandas made their final push. Bond leveled the score on a bomb, and Sullivan followed with one of her own. After a violation on Dover, Hearn delivered an ace, and a Senators attack was long, sending it to match point. Olivia Czepukaitis smashed one to save the first match point, but Sullivan dropped the next attack in front of the end line to help Padua move on.
Peters had 12 kills and Sullivan 10 for the Pandas, while Quinn led with 17 digs. Padua (13-4) will play the sixth seed, Wilmington Friends, on Thursday at approximately 7:30 p.m. at Saint Mark’s.
Dover’s statistics were not available late Tuesday night. The Senators finished the season 14-3.
All photos by Mike Lang.