MILLTOWN — When Padua and Wilmington Friends met on the volleyball court on Oct. 21, the Quakers left Padua with a 3-2 victory. One can be certain that was fresh on the mind of the Pandas’ players and coaches when the teams met Nov. 11 in a DIAA tournament semifinal.
The Pandas, seeded second in the 24-team field, looked like a team ready to compete for a second state championship in the last three years with a solid sweep of the No. 6 Quakers. Set scores from Saint Mark’s High School were 25-18, 25-22, and 25-17.
Olivia Staats opened the match with a kill, the first point in a 6-0 start that eventually went to 9-1. Meghan Peters put the large crowd on notice that this was going to be a good night for her, scoring four of those points on three kills and an ace. Padua continued to build on the lead, with a block by Morgan Bond extending the advantage to 12-3.
But the Quakers bounced back, putting up the next six points. Reena Robinson started that run with a tip kill, and the senior was the primary scoring option for Friends in the first set. She helped keep Friends in it with a variety of attacks, with the Quakers eventually cutting the Pandas’ lead to a deuce at 17-15. Padua then scored seven of the next nine points, taking advantage of some Quakers errors, and Peyton Sullivan made it 23-17 when she sent an attack off the Friends’ wall. After Eleanor Dealy saved one set point, an attack error gave the set to Padua.
Friends rebounded at the outset of set two. Abby Carian announced herself with a pair of kills and a block in a 5-0 start, a lead that peaked at six when it was 8-2. Morgan Bond led the comeback, stuffing an overpass and adding a block during a Pandas 6-0 run that knotted the set. The teams were tied four times between 8-8 and 13-13 before the Pandas streaked again. This 4-0 run began with a Peters bomb and a Peters tip, and it wrapped when Audrey Lyons delivered an ace.
The Quakers bounced back once more. They tied it at 18 and 19, fell behind by three, then got back to within one at 22-21. Peters smacked one deep for one point, and an attack error sent it to set point. Robinson saved one with a tip, but Peters left no doubt on the next rally, smashing the set winner straight down into the floor.
Peters repeated the shot as the third set began, and Padua jumped out to an 8-2 lead, with Staats adding an ace, Peyton Sullivan smashing one down, and Mary Mancini blocking an attempt. Sullivan and Carian traded kills in the middle of the set, and Friends was able to get the Pandas’ lead down to three on two occasions.
The lead was 17-13 when Bond scored with a kill off the tape, and Sullivan added another kill. The Quakers called timeout, but they were unable to get closer than five down the stretch. Peters finished out a fantastic evening with consecutive blasts to end it.
She finished with 13 kills and 13 digs. Sullivan had seven kills, while Mandy Quinn had a team-leading 28 digs. Bond had three blocks; Padua finished with eight rejections. The Pandas (14-4) will meet top seeded Saint Mark’s on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware for the state championship. It is the teams’ third straight meeting for the title, with each team winning one.
For the Quakers, Carian had 13 kills and Robinson had 12. Robinson also had 16 digs. Jocelyn Nathan finished with 30 digs. Wilmington Friends went 15-3 this season.
All photos by Mike Lang.