MILLTOWN — Saint Mark’s moved one step closer to its ultimate goal this volleyball season on Dec. 10, sweeping Delaware Military Academy in a DIAA semifinal by scores of 25-14, 25-10 and 25-11. The Spartans will meet Padua on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s title tilt, this time aiming for a different result.
Saint Mark’s, the top seed in the 24-team field, worked through the Seahawks with incredible efficiency. They jumped out early in each set and prevented DMA from ever closing the gap.
“We were really excited. We were really pumped up,” said junior Mya Lewis, who played a large role in the victory. “We just played together as a team. We were all really happy to be here and ready to play.”
They set the tone straight away. After taking the first point with the Seahawks on the serve, the Spartans scored seven more with Katie Sonchen on the serve. Nicole Dimiris had two blocks during that run, part of a stellar front-line defensive effort. DMA responded with three points of their own, but a strong stretch led to a 15-5 lead and a Seahawks timeout.
Riley Sullivan did her best to keep the 12th-seeded Seahawks close, scoring on a cross, followed by a tip that closed the gap to 16-7. But Kyla Dow ended the set with a smash that caught the end line.
A Sonchen ace and a blast by Mya Lewis were part of a 3-0 start to the second set. Lewis scored twice more on kills as Saint Mark’s opened up a 7-2 advantage before DMA’s Lillian Wenzel tapped one over the Spartans’ front line and found the floor. The hosts responded with the next six, however. Julia Yurkovich was responsible for two of those with kills, and the Seahawks hurt their cause with several unforced errors.
Down the stretch in the second set, the Spartans got contributions from Sonchen with an ace, Lewis (two more kills), Dimiris (another block) and Sarah Hessler, who added a kill. The final two points were courtesy of Yurkovich, who went down the middle on back-to-back rallies to make it 2-0 Saint Mark’s.
With momentum on their side, the Spartans scored the first five points of the third as they built an 11-4 lead. This time, the Seahawks were successful in cutting into the lead. They scored four of the next five points, with Morgan Giofre and Wenzel each picking up a kill, followed by two unforced Spartans errors, which were rare during the match.
Saint Mark’s responded with a 7-0 run, however, to take the air out of the DMA balloon. Dimiris, Lewis and Brooke Dow each had kills during that run, but the point that sent the Spartans back to the final came on a block by Lewis, her second of the night.
Lewis had 16 kills to lead the Spartans, while Yurkovich had nine. Brooke Dow had 17 digs, while Sam Gerhart had 13. Sonchen had four aces, while Dimiris posted six blocks. Saint Mark’s improved to 14-0, including a season-opening win against DMA. The championship match is scheduled for Saturday at Saint Mark’s at 7 p.m. With last year in mind, the Spartans have been looking forward to this opportunity, Lewis said.
“Since the beginning, we walk in this gym, we only have one goal, and that’s to make it here,” she said.
Final statistics were not available early Friday morning for the Seahawks. They finished their season 11-4 and will play Wilmington Friends in the consolation match on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Saint Mark’s.
Photos courtesy of Nick Halliday.