WILMINGTON — Saint Mark’s picked up a convincing win in the first set, but the Spartans were taken deep into sets two and three in a sweep of Ursuline on Nov. 28. Set scores in what was the final regular-season volleyball match of 2020 were 25-10, 25-21, and 25-21.
Back-to-back blocks staked the Spartans to a 2-0 lead to open the second, but Emma Raftovich got the Raiders on the board with a kill. Saint Mark’s lead grew to three on a Mya Lewis ace, and four a minute later on a hitting error. Ursuline came back with Maria Kennedy on serve.
She delivered consecutive aces, and a hitting error on the Spartans tied the score at 9. Another ace put Ursuline in front for the first time, and the Spartans called timeout. The next two points belonged to Saint Mark’s, with a Katie Sonchen ace restoring a one-point Spartans lead.
The teams bounced back and forth, with hitters Raftovich and Avery Brown trading swings with Julia Yurkovich and Brooke Dow of the Spartans. The defensive specialists were kept busy, leading to several long rallies. Saint Mark’s scored three straight on a stuff by Sarah Hessler, a Yurkovich smash and a hitting error to open up a 17-14 lead, and after an ace from Kyla Dow made it 19-15, Ursuline called time.
Yurkovich went straight down to increase the lead by another point and extending the Spartans’ run to 7-1. A block pushed the lead to six points. Faith Kleitz and Raftovich scored on back-to-back kills, and an ace from Heyli Velasquez cut that lead in half. Yurkovich ended that streak with a mash. Ursuline saved three set points before a Brooke Dow cross brought the set to an end.
The Raiders scored five straight after giving up the first point of the third. Samiah Sudler-Brooks got the first one on a block for Ursuline. Nicole Dimiris of Saint Mark’s brought that run to its conclusion by stuffing an overpass.
Brown spearheaded the Raiders’ good fortune with big hits, a few incredible digs and her specialty, the kill. The home team led, 9-3, and they held that margin for much of the set. A Hannah Kelley kill later on put the Raiders in front, 13-8.
The Spartans began the comeback in earnest after falling behind, 17-13. Lewis smacked one down the middle, and a Raiders hitting error followed. A block for Nicole Dimiris cut the deficit to a single point and prompted the Raiders to call a timeout. Another block, this one by Kyla Dow, tied it up. A violation on Ursuline put Saint Mark’s on top for the first time in the set.
By the time the Spartans’ 8-1 run ended on a Yurkovich laser, they led, 21-18. After the Raiders climbed back into it, Yurkovich sent a seed down the left sideline, increasing her team’s lead to 23-20. Yurkovich found a seam in the middle to send it to match point, and after Kelley saved once, a service error brought the regular season to an end.
Yurkovich and Lewis each had 12 kills for the Spartans, while Brook Dow had 10 to go along with 14 digs. Saint Mark’s finished the regular season 11-0 and will earn a first-round bye in the tournament.
Brown had 11 kills to pace the Raiders (5-7). Faith Kleitz had seven kills. Velasquez led with 24 digs, while Kennedy added 17. Ursuline will make the state tournament and awaits its first-round opponent.