WILMINGTON — Saint Mark’s came into the second round of the DIAA volleyball tournament undefeated and the top seed among the 24 title hopefuls. They left that way as well, but the 17th-seeded Archmere Auks gave the Spartans a real battle in a 3-1 decision. Set scores were 25-23, 25-18, 24-26, and 25-18.
The Spartans came out hitting, taking a 6-3 first-set lead on consecutive kills from Kyla Dow, Mya Lewis and Julia Yurkovich, But the Auks were up for the challenge, and a combination of front-line scoring and a good service game kept them close. Archmere used an ace from #21 to tie the score at 7-7, and a few points later Jessica Lattanzi smacked an overpass down to knot it again at 9-9.
A series of Spartans unforced errors helped the Auks build a 20-16 lead, but Yurkovich ended a four-point Archmere run with another kill. The Auks took their final lead of the set at 23-22 when libero Hannah Wright connected from the back, but the Spartans recovered. An Auks block of a Spartans attack landed wide for the tying point, and Nicole Dimiris sent it to set point with a block. A Lewis kill ended the set.
The Spartans regrouped between sets and played some impressive volleyball in the second. Several small runs helped them gradually open up their lead. Lewis was key during the first part of the set. She had three kills as Saint Mark’s took a 13-7 lead, prompting the Auks to call timeout. Lydia Scarpaci and Abby Garcia went back-to-back down the left sideline out of the break, cutting the deficit to four at 13-9.
But Saint Mark’s would score the next four, bookended by Kyla Dow swings, and the lead grew to 23-14 on a tip by Sarah Hessler. Archmere fought off four set points, but s service error put the Spartans up two sets to none.
The situation looked rosy for Saint Mark’s as they scored the first three points of the third set, but Archmere was in no mood for a sweep. The Auks roared back, tying it at 4-4 on consecutive kills by Bella Ganfield, part of a 5-0 run that ended with a block by Ava Scarpaci
Garcia was on her game in the third, helping the Auks maintain a small lead most of the way. The set was tied, however, at 20 when the Auks scored three straight, but the Spartans answered with three of their own. An unforced error sent it to match point, but after an Auks timeout, the visitors took the lead when an attack was blocked out of bounds, and freshman Autumn Richardson-Peters delivered consecutive aces to give the Auks new life.
Richardson-Peters kept the magic going early in the fourth with two more aces in a four-point run that gave Archmere a 4-1 lead. The Spartans responded, however, with five straight of their own, getting another Dimiris block, a Katie Sonchen dump and a Lewis bomb.
After the Auks took a 10-7 lead on a Hope Merritt block, Yurkovich asserted herself with back-to-back swings. Lewis knotted the score with an ace, and those were the first three of 10 straight points for the Spartans as they created distance between the teams. The Auks fell behind by eight at one point but cut that in half to make it interesting, but the Spartans were not interested in playing a fifth set. Again, the Auks rallied for a few points near the end, but Lewis ended the match by tickling the end line with a final swing.
Yurkovich finished with a match-leading 22 kills, and she added 20 digs. Lewis had 15 kills and 22 assists. Brooke Dow had five blocks, while Dimiris had four. The Spartans improved to 12-0 and will play the winner of Charter School of Wilmington vs. Caesar Rodney on Tuesday night. The Force and CR will meet tomorrow in Camden.
For the Auks, Garcia had 12 kills. Merritt had eight. Wright led with 32 digs, while Ava Scarpaci and Lattanzi each had five blocks. Richardson-Peters led with her four aces. Archmere ended its season with an 8-5 record.
All photos by Mike Lang.