MILLTOWN — Delmarva Christian may have been the big unknown in the 2022 DIAA volleyball tournament, but the Royals earned the No. 2 seed and a meeting with No. 3 Saint Mark’s in the semifinal round on Nov. 10. The Spartans needed a comeback win in the first set and battled all night before taking the 3-1 victory.
Set scores were 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, and 25-15.
The Spartans will meet ninth-seeded Tower Hill for the state championship on Monday night at approximately 6:30 p.m. at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware in Newark. It is their fourth straight appearance in the title match; they have won two consecutive years.
In front of a raucous crowd at Saint Mark’s, the teams demonstrated early on that this would be a battle. The teams were tied at each point from 1-1 through 8-8 before the Royals took the lead on an attack error, followed by a kill from Elaina Millaway.
The Spartans fought back, and the set was tied again at 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17 until a Saint Mark’s service error sparked a 3-0 run by Delmarva Christian that included an ace from Tessa Kwiatkowski and a kill off the right arm of Ellie Millaway.
A service error from the Royals, however, began a 6-0 Spartans streak, two of which were courtesy of Julia Yurkovich. Elaina Millaway helped cut the Royals’ deficit to one at 23-22, but Yurkovkch blasted a shot to get it to set point, and an unforced error ended the first.
The Spartans trailed the second, 3-2, before Yurkovkch tied it with another bomb. Abby Catts gave Saint Mark’s the lead when her attack was unplayable, and Maddi Way served up an ace to make the score 5-3. But this was a night of mostly close margins, and Delmarva Christian got right back into it. Kaylan Yoder crushed a kill to tie the score at eight, and consecutive kills by Ellie Millaway put the Royals on top, 11-8.
A few points later, Ellie Millaway’s ace gave Delmarva Christian a 14-12 advantage, but the Spartans found an extra gear. They scored eight of the next nine points, getting kills from Yurkovich and Catts, a block from Lauren Mehelas and wrapping up with back-to-back swings from Ava Borcky. The Royals fought back, getting to within two, but the Spartans scored the final five points of the set, with Mehelas clinching it with an ace.
The Saint Mark’s student section, wearing pajamas and Santa hats, was smelling a sweep, but the Royals were not accommodating. They battled back from a 5-0 deficit to open the third. Elaina Millaway showed why she is one of the best hitters in the state midway through. With her team trailing, 9-7, she went down the left side, smashed one into the middle, crushed another kill, and sent an attack off the fingers of the Saint Mark’s block to make it 11-9 Royals.
Their lead grew to four points, but the Spartans stuck close, and the teams were tied seven times between 15-15 and 24-24. The Royals’ first attempt at set point was foiled when a Borcky attack was blocked out of bounds, but Yoder earned them a second set point with a kill that just landed inbounds, and Kwiatkowski delivered a service winner.
The fourth set started similarly to the third, with Saint Mark’s opening up a 4-0 lead thanks to a Yurkovich slam, a block by Malani Maycole, an unforced error and a Borcky ace. But a 5-0 run capped by a service winner and an ace from Tobi Robinson knotted the set at 7-7, and the teams remained neck and neck for a few points, but there would be no fifth set on this night.
After the Royals tied it at 10, Saint Mark’s went back on top thanks to an attack error. That was the first point in an 11-2 run that put them ahead, 21-12. Along the way, Jill Teal and Taylor Holly served up aces, and Yurkovich ended that stretch with her penultimate kill. On the final point, Yurkovich took a perfect set from Way and sent it down the left side, and the Spartans were celebrating an opportunity to add to their championship total.
Yurkovich finished with 21 kills, with Borcky adding nine. Borcky also led the team with 14 digs, while Mehelas had six blocks, and Way had 38 assists. Holly had four aces. The Spartans improved to 17-1.
For Delmarva Christian, the first team from Sussex County to ever advance to the tournament semifinal round, Elaina Millaway led with 21 kills, while her sister Ellie added eight and Yoder six. Four players reached double figres in digs, while Kwiatkowski had 17 assists. The Royals finished the season 15-3.
All photos by Mike Lang.