GREENVILLE — Back and forth they went, Ursuline and Tatnall, through four long sets, striving to advance in the DIAA volleyball tournament. The Hornets outlasted the Raiders in the first set, but Ursuline rebounded to take the final three for a 3-1 win on Nov. 2 at Tatnall.
Set scores were 27-29, 25-18, 25-21, and 27-25.
The Hornets, seeded 14th nnd back in the tournament for the first time since 2017, started strong, taking an 11-7 lead after a violation on the 19th-seeded Raiders. Ursuline scored four straight to tie, but the Hornets responded with four of their own, capped by a block, then a smash, by Emma Kirby. Ava Panunto began an Ursuline comeback with a kill, and three points later, she tied it at 15 with an ace.
On an on the first went, with each team taking turns with a small lead. #20’s block put Tatnall in front, 23-21, but Faith Kleitz scored on consecutive kills to get the Raiders even. There were two set points each as the first went into extras, but a service error on the Hornets tied the score at 27. The Hornets scored the final two points on Raiders errors to take the set.
A Caitlyn McGonigal kill sprung the Hornets on a 4-0 run to begin the second set, with the Tatnall student section roaring its approval. But a smash from Hannah Kelley got Ursuline started on a 6-1 stretch that also included an ace from Hayley Timmons, a surprise kill from Kleitz, another Kelley attack and a Kelley ace.
Neither team could build a lead of more than two points until Timmons pushed a ball over the Hornets’ defense to make it 15-12 Raiders. Tatnall got as close as 17-15, but a 6-0 run that included a pair of Kleitz aces sealed the victory for the Raiders.
Tatnall again jumped out to a lead, this time in the third, sprinting to a 6-2 advantage. But Kleitz and Cece DeCaro scored on three straight kills as Ursuline forged a 7-7 tie, only to concede three straight points to Tatnall on unforced errors. But they bounced back, taking the lead for good on a tap kill from Juliette Cummings. DeCaro and Kleitz led Ursuline to a 24-17 lead, but the Hornets saved four set points. Finally, Kleitz sent a roller over the net after a fantastic save by Kelley, and Ursuline had a 2-1 lead.
The Raiders came out firing in the fourth, turning a 1-1 tie into an 8-1 lead thanks to multiple players, including Timmons, who wrapped up the 7-0 run with a pair of aces. This time, Tatnall played catch-up, getting contributions from McGonigal, Kirby, Bri Gautier and Lexi Tarlue to tie it at 12.
The Hornets kept going, finishing a 7-0 run with a hard cross from McGonigal as their lead grew to 15-12. Ursuline tied the score at 15 on a Panunto ace, and the teams were tied again at 17. On a night of streaks, the Raiders took a 21-17 lead, but a determined Tatnall squad stuck around.
Ursuline reached match point at 24-21, but Tatnall got a stuff from Niyah Kellman, a tip from Gautier and an ace from Chloe Kennedy, and the teams were headed for extra points again. The Hornets got to set point on a hitting error, but Kleitz tied it again on a tap. DeCaro scored on a kill for Ursuline’s fourth match point, and that would be their last. Kleitz sent a crossing attack to the floor, and the Raiders were moving on.
Kelley had 16 kills, DeCaro 14 and Kleitz 13 for the Raiders. The team combined for 16 aces. Ursuline (7-9) will visit No. 3 Saint Mark’s on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in a second-round matchup.
McGonigal led the Hornets with 14 kills, while Gautier added nine. Kirby and Kellman each had five blocks. Tatnall finished with a 9-7 record.
Photos by Jason Winchell and Mike Lang.