NEWARK —Tower Hill entered the DIAA volleyball tournament as the ninth seed, with a 13-2 regular-season mark not enough to get the Hillers a first-round tournament bye.
None of that mattered the night of Nov. 14 at the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, where Tower Hill took down third-seeded and two-time defending champion Saint Mark’s with a shocking 3-0 sweep. Set scores were 25-20, 26-24, and 25-20.
It didn’t take long for the Hillers to announce themselves inside the Bob, where students from both schools filled the end zones, each side with a blackout theme. Chloe Sachs opened the match with a kill, just a sneak preview of the havoc she would wreak all night for Tower. With the first set tied, 3-3, Sachs began an 8-1 run with a kill off the tape. She would add another kill and an ace along the way, while teammate Molly Pietlock made her presence known with a pair of kills.
Those two tormented the Spartans throughout the set, staking Tower Hill to a 21-7 lead, but the Spartans settled down and roared back. They scored 13 of the next 15 points, with Julia Yurkovich sprinkling in an ace among a few kills, to cut the Hillers’ lead to 23-20. Pietlock scored on a tip, and an attack error ended the first set.
Despite the first-set setback, the Spartans appeared to have righted the ship. They scored the first six points of the second, with the final four coming on a set over the net by Maddi Way, back-to-back Yurkovich attacks, and a spike by Malani Maycole.
The lead remained six points at 11-5 when the Hillers began their comeback in earnest. Pietlock scored on a push kill, and she added a block a few points later to make it 12-9. Maggie Newswanger followed with an ace, and Pietlock struck again, prompting a Saint Mark’s timeout. Tower, however, scored the next four points, the first two by Pietlock, to take a 15-12 lead.
Three straight unforced errors by the Hillers tied the score, and the set was there for either team. The Spartans then took nine one-point leads, only to see Tower tie the score each time. The last Saint Mark’s lead was 24-23, but Sachs foiled their lone set point with a kill. Mumford took over on serve, and she delivered consecutive aces to complete the comeback.
Yurkovich gave the Spartans a 4-2 lead in the third, but the Hillers bounced back, and the set was neck-and-neck for a bit. With the score tied, 9-9, Pietlock served up three consecutive aces to swing the momentum firmly in the Hillers’ favor. Ava Borcky scored on a tap to end that streak, but Sachs, Anna Schiltz and Lydia Spencer combined for four straight kills to extend the lead to 16-10.
The Spartans were able to get within three points on two occasions, but the Hillers’ defense, which was stout all night, would not let them get any closer. After Tower sent it to match point, Maycole scored on three straight blocks to cut the lead to 24-20. Reagan Squire completed the upset with a stuff that went off a Spartan and over the back-line defense, and the celebration began for the Hillers.
Final statistics were not available early Tuesday morning. Tower Hill — with wins over No. 1 Smyrna and No. 5 Caravel on the way to the title — finished 18-2. The Spartans ended with a 17-2 mark.