WILMINGTON — At first glance, Salesianum’s 3-0 boys volleyball sweep over Wilmington Charter on March 22 might look like it was an easy journey. But the Sals had to overcome late deficits in each of the final two sets in order to earn the hard-fought win. Set scores were 25-22, 25-23, and 25-23.
The Sals last trailed in the first set at 12-11, but the teams were tied several times after that. It was 18-18 when Salesianum went back on top on a service error, and a few points later their lead was 22-19. But two unforced Sallies errors, followed by a smash from William Snyder leveled the score once more.
That would be the final Charter point of the set. The Sals closed it out with a net violation, a kill from Andrew Mahoney, and the winner, an ace delivered by Ronan Landis.
As tough as that set was, the second and third were tougher. A 4-1 run Charter run, capped by a Sasan Sedighi kill, put the Force on top, 10-7, and the lead topped out at five points, 14-9, when Kalen Shahan blasted a kill. But the Sals started their comeback on the next point as Cody Popp’s attack was dug high into the ceiling beams and fell to the floor. He then moved to the back line and served up an ace. The teams went at it until Connor Brown threw up a block to tie the score at 18.
Charter called a timeout, and whatever was said in the huddle was the right thing. The Force scored the first three points out of the break, the last one a tape ace for Ido Rosenblatt. But Popp got a block to stop the bleeding, and Christian Sullivan was blocked out of bounds. The Force scored again, but two consecutive unforced errors tied it again. With the score 23-23, Anthony Molitor sent it to set point with a block, and Reid Maas had a kill attempt go off a Force defender and out of bounds.
Charter held a lead throughout most of the third set, with Aleksandr German providing some offense early on while Sullivan was doing the same for his team. His block pulled the Sals to within one at 16-15, but the Force took advantage of back-to-back errors to stretch the advantage back to three. After the Sals scored, Charter’s Joseph Mancuso had the play of the match, rushing back toward the end line and sending a desperation back-to-the-net overhead shot off the tape and down for a point. A hitting error from the Sals put Charter’s lead at 20-16.
The lead grew to 22-17 on a Sallies hitting error, but the home team had one more comeback in them. They scored three straight, the last one on a kill from Mahoney. Charter got one back, but the Sals scored the final five points of the match. After a Force hitting error, Popp crushed an overpass to end a long rally. A violation on the Force tied things up, and Sullivan sent it to match point with an off-speed attack. Another hitting error brought the day to a close.
For the Sals, Popp led the way with 8 kills, 7 digs and 7 assists. Sullivan also had 8 kills, and he added 3 blocks. Maas chipped in with 4 kills and 2 aces. Landis had 14 assists. Salesianum improved to 2-0 and visits William Penn on Monday at 5:15 p.m.
No stats were available for the Force, who fell to 1-1. They travel to Christiana on Monday at 5:15 p.m.
All photos by Mike Lang.