CLAYMONT — The Padua volleyball team absorbed a body blow from a worthy opponent on the evening of Sept. 16, but they bounced back to win the final three sets in a 3-1 decision at Archmere.
In front of a nearly packed Moglia Fieldhouse, complete with a large and raucous student section, the Auks showed their mettle right away. Padua turned a 16-16 first set into a four-point lead on a Peyton Sullivan ace, two kills by Morgan Bond and a smash from Meghan Peters, but the Auks hung close. Peters gave the Pandas a 22-21 lead with another kill, but Abby Garcia had an attack off the tape fall in to tie the score again.
That gave the serve to Archmere’s Autumn Richardson-Peters, and all she did was serve up three consecutive aces for the 25-22 Auks win.
The Auks used a six-point run to take an early 9-3 lead in the second, but the Pandas managed to fight back to get within one at 12-11. Archmere used its strong service game for the last of a three-point run, with an ace from Garcia making the score 15-11. They extended the lead to five, 22-17, getting more service magic from Ally McLaughlin, but the Pandas weren’t giving up.
Bond scored two straight before Peters stuffed an overpass to pull the visitors within two. After a hitting error on Archmere, Sullivan tied the score with an ace. Another error put Padua on top, and they completed the eight-point run to end the set and tie the match on a service winner from Sullivan, followed by a smash from Peters down the left side.
The Auks opened up an 8-3 lead in the third, but as was the case in the first two sets, no lead was safe. Peters and Sullivan led the comeback effort up front, getting plenty of support from libero Mandy Quinn and setter Audrey Lyons. Bond finally got Padua the lead at 17-16 when she directed a ball an open space near the left sideline, and Cassidy Jester showed off her hitting power by smashing a kill off the Auks block.
Cecilia Connolly went off the block for the Auks to pull them to within one at 19-18, but the Pandas ran off the next five points to send it to set point. Archmere saved three set points before a service error ended it.
The fourth set was the only one whose outcome was never really in doubt. The Pandas — paced by Jester’s bit hits and Lyons’ service game — ran off the first 11 points before Garcia sent one down the right sideline to get the Auks on the board.
Archmere could get no closer than eight the rest of the way as Jester, Bond and Peters showed off their right arms.
The two defensive plays of the night came late in the match. With the score 20-10, Garcia sent a kill off the fingers of libero Mandy Quinn. Lyons dove over the end line to keep the ball alive, and Jester sent it over with a long bump. The ball fell for a Pandas point.
Then, up by a 23-12 score, an Auks serve handcuffed Quinn and headed for the first row of the stands. Jester sprinted over and knocked over her head backward, where Sullivan was waiting to send if over for a point. Jester wrapped up the night with a big smash.
Jester led the Pandas with 18 kills, while Peters had 12, along with four blocks and four aces. Sullivan served up nine aces; the Pandas finished with 21. Padua (2-0) will travel to Virginia on Saturday for a 1 p.m. match with Paul VI.
Archmere (1-2) is at Ursuline on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.
Photos courtesy of Nick Halliday.