WILMINGTON — The Saint Mark’s volleyball team was in an unusual position on Oct. 30 when they visited Ursuline for the teams’ second meeting of the season. The Raiders became just the second opponent to take a set from the Spartans this year, outlasting Saint Mark’s in the second to tie the match at 1-1.
But the Spartans seemed energized by the challenge, and they won the final two sets convincingly for a 3-1 win in the regular-season finale in the state for 2021. Set scores were 25-21, 23-25, 25-14, and 25-16.
Before the match, Ursuline held a short ceremony to celebrate and thank Sue Heiss, who has been the head volleyball coach for 38 of the past 40 seasons. (She took a season off when each of her two oldest sons were born.) Several of her former players were in the gymnasium, many of whom had played for one or more of her 11 state champion squads.
The Spartans had a 6-3 lead in the third before Julia Yurkovich scored on a cross, and Mya Lewis sent a kill straight down to stretch the advantage to five. The Raiders, with a big night from Hannah Kelley and Cecilia Decaro, stuck around for the first half of the third, getting as close as five points, the last time on a shot down the right sideline by Decaro.
A monster kill by Nicole Dimiris began a 5-1 run for Saint Mark’s to put the set out of reach. Yurkovich scored on a block to end the run. The Spartans ran off four straight to end the set, with Lewis picking up a kill and an ace and Dimiris a block before a Raiders violation accounted for the final point.
The Spartans led early in the fourth by a 7-2 count, but a three-point run that began with an Ava Panunto stuff closed the gap. Dimiris and Lewis helped Saint Mark’s build the lead back to six at one point, but a Decaro kill and Kelley block cut the Raiders’ deficit to four at 14-10.
There were no big runs in the fourth, but the Spartans gradually built the lead with contributions from several players. Sarah Hessler had a block, and Katie Sonchen added an ace. With the score 23-13, Kate Kardash and Kelley went back-to-back on big kills, but a smash by Brooke Dow was blocked out of bounds to send it to match point. The Raiders saved one, but Yurkovich ended the affair with a bomb that went off the Ursuline block to the floor.
It was an encouraging outing for the Raiders. They stuck close to the Spartans in the first, with Kelley leading the way. The Raiders held a 13-11 lead midway through, but the Spartans scored seven straight points after a timeout. Dow ended that run with an ace. Faith Kleitz and Decaro scored back-to-back later on to bring Ursuline to within a point at 22-21, but two Lewis crushes sandwiched around a Raiders error ended the first.
Saint Mark’s finished the regular season 14-0. The Spartans will be the top seed in the state tournament and are off until the second round next Saturday against an opponent to be determined. Ursuline’s regular season ended at 7-7; the Raiders will be playing in a first-round tournament match on Thursday.
The DIAA volleyball committee will meet on Oct. 31 to determine seedings for the 24-team bracket. The top eight teams receive a first-round bye, while the others will play on Thursday at sites and times to be announced.