WILMINGTON — Late in the first set of their match against Newark Charter on Nov. 8, Saint Mark’s volleyball team faced a two-point deficit. The Patriots were up, 24-22, needing just one more point to win the set, after a kill from Harini Atluri.
But that 25th point is often the toughest. Julia Yurkovich scored on a tap, and an unforced error from the Patriots leveled the score at 24. With the Saint Mark’s student section roaring inside the packed St. E Center, Yurkovich blasted a ball straight down to push the Spartans to set point. Lauren Mehelas made sure there would be no more extra points needed in the set, stuffing an overpass to end it wth the Spartans on top, 26-24.
That comeback seemed to spark the third-seeded Spartans, and they would take the next two sets for the sweep in the DIAA quarterfinal round. They swept No. 6 Newark Charter to move on to the semifinals on Thursday. Set scores were 26-24, 25-18, and 25-20.
Yurkovich struck to open the second, and the Spartans jumped out to a 4-1 advantage. But the Patriots, who lost to Saint Mark’s earlier this year by a 3-1 score, were not intimidated, and they stormed back. A kill from Kennedy Pavlekovich and an attack error from Saint Mark’s tied the score at 5.
The Spartans responded, taking the lead in the set for good on the very next point, a hitting error by the Patriots. Abby Catts made it a two-point gap with a tap, and the teams traded points for a bit after that. But a smash by Ava Borcky, followed by consecutive kills by Yurkovich, finally gave the Spartans some breathing room.
A 5-0 run that included an ace from Jill Teal made the score 21-13, but with the score 22-14, the Patriots made one more comeback attempt. A 4-0 run, which finished with a kill from Lila Seiler, prompted a Saint Mark’s timeout, and Yurkovich ended the run with a dink. Mehelas threw up another block, and an attack error ended the second.
Yurkovich had three kills in a five-point run to begin the third set, and the Spartans’ supporters in the building could smell another semifinal berth. The lead reached 10-4 before Newark Charter began its climb back on a kill from Ava Ciriaco. Sara Shuts followed with a block, and Pavlekovich added an ace. A hitting error on the Spartans tied the set, 10-10, and it was the Newark Charter students’ turn to get even louder than they had been all night.
Pavlekovich then served up an ace to put the Patriots on top, where they stayed until the Spartans knotted the score at 15 on another Yurkovich kill. Taylor Holly restored the Spartans’ lead with an ace, Yurkovich added to her kill total, and Holly aced another serve. Mehalas scored on a tap to end a 6-0 run with Saint Mark’s on top, 19-15.
The Patriots got to within two at 19-17, but Yurkovich and Catts each had a pair of kills down the stretch. The final two points scored on unforced errors on the Patriots.
Yurkovich finished with 24 kills and 12 digs, while Borcky had eight kills and Malani Maycole seven. Holly led with 23 digs. Saint Mark’s (16-1) will play the second seed, Delmarva Christian, on Thursday at Saint Mark’s at a time to be announced. The Royals advanced to the semifinals for the first time with a 3-2 win over No. 7 Caesar Rodney.
Final statistics were not available early Wednesday morning for Newark Charter. The Patriots finished with a record of 14-3.
The other semifinal will pit No. 9 Tower Hill vs. No. 5 Caravel. The Hillers swept the top seed, Smyrna, while the Buccaneers advanced with a 3-2 victory over No. 4 Archmere. Those matches took place at Saint Mark’s.
Statistics from the Archmere game were not available early Wednesday. The Auks ended the season 13-4.
Photos by Jason Winchell and Mike Lang.