WILMINGTON — Salesianum’s volleyball team had not lost a set all season, so when Delaware Military Academy powered its way to a narrow victory, it remained to be seen how the Sals would react.
The answer is, just fine. Salesianum, the top seed, responded with a big win in the second set, then comfortable margins in the third and fourth for the 3-1 win over the No. 4 Seahawks and a berth in the inaugural DIAA boys volleyball state championship match. Set scores were 23-25, 25-12, 25,19, and 25-18.
DMA’s Reece Dodd announced his presence in a big way as the first set got going. He had a block and a kill as the Seahawks took an 11-6 lead, prompting a Sallies timeout and generating lots of noise from the team’s supporters. A kill from Evan McGee pushed the lead to five, but the Sals stuck close, going on a 7-2 run to tie the score, 14-14.
A Christian Sullivan block lifted the Sals into the lead at 16-15, but another block by Dodd, followed by a blast by the junior, capped a 4-0 DMA stretch to give the visitors a 19-16 advantage. Sallies responded with its own 4-0 run, with two of those points coming on attacks by Reid Maas. Another Maas smash put the Sals ahead, 21-20. They were up, 22-21, but the Seahawks scored the next three to get it to set point. The Sals saved one set point, but a service error provided the winning point for DMA.
The Sals came out blazing in the second. Cody Popp got them started with a stuff to begin the scoring, the first of six straight to open the second. The Seahawks took a timeout, but Connor Brown and Popp had kills as the lead increased to 10-1.
Delaware Military fought back. They captured eight of the next 10 points, with a tip kill by Luke Kelly cutting the Sals’ lead to 12-9. But Salesianum took advantage of opportunities to stretch the lead. Brown stuffed an overpass, and Maas dropped an ace on the right sideline to get the lead to double digits. Maas had a service winner to get it to 24-10, and a few points later, the Seahawks were called for a violation. The match was tied.
DMA took the first three points of the third, but the Sals stayed close and got it to a tie at 6-6 on a Seahawks hitting error. Dodd untied it with a smash, and McGee added a block. The set was tied at 11 before the Sals began to pull away a bit. They went ahead, 17-13, on an ace from Sullivan, but after a timeout, Dodd struck again, leaping to crush a point.
The Sallies’ lead was 21-17 when Popp blasted a kill following an impressive save by the Seahawks. Another DMA overpass was knocked down by the Sals, and Popp hit another bomb. Again, the Seahawks saved two set points, but a back-line attack by the Sals glanced off a DMA player and over the end line to put the Sals ahead by a set, 2-1.
Maas blocked Dodd as the fourth set progressed, giving the Sals a 9-6 lead. DMA fought back to tie, with a McGee kill of the Salesianum block making it 9-9. The Sals scored six of the next seven, with Declan McDonnell and Ronan Landis each contributing aces along the way. Andrew Mahoney scored one of the most unconventional points of the evening in the latter stages of the fourth. He appeared to slip as he approached the ball along the right sideline, threw out an arm and bumped it over the net, where it fell along the line for a Salesianum point.
Kills by Brown and Sullivan put the Sals ahead, 23-16. At match point, Sallies’ Anthony Molitor saved a ball from just in front of his bench, and the Seahawks’ attempt to counter landed just out of bounds, ending the night.
Mahoney finished with a team-leading 12 kills, and Maas added eight, along with four aces. The Sals were credited with 17 blocks; Brown had four of those. Salesianum (17-0) will face No. 2 Cape Henlopen on May 24 at approximately 7 p.m. for the title.
No statistics were available for Delaware Military. The Seahawks finished the season 14-4.
All photos by Mike Lang.