WILMINGTON – Padua’s volleyball team went into Ursuline’s gymnasium three weeks ago and defeated the Raiders, so Ursuline returned the favor Oct. 25 on Broom Street. The Raiders, ranked fourth by 302Sports.com, overcame a first-set loss to take the 3-1 victory before a capacity crowd. Set scores were 22-25, 25-21, 25-15, and 25-17.
The Pandas entered the contest riding a nine-match winning streak, and their lone loss of 2018 came at the hands of Paul VI of Fairfax, Va. Along the way this season, they had defeated many of the top teams in the state, including Wilmington Charter, Delaware Military Academy, St. Mark’s, Tower Hill and Archmere. In the first set, the hosts looked like they were ready to put the Raiders away for a second time.
Ursuline’s Corinne Furey, playing her second match since returning from a foot injury, opened the proceedings with a smash, but the teams played an even set to start. Padua scored on an ace by Jess Molen to make it 8-5, and an Ursuline error added one to the Pandas’ lead. The lead stayed around four points for a while, but another Furey smash brought the Raiders to within one at 13-12.
Molen kept up the good work behind the service line, delivering consecutive aces later on to make it 21-15 Pandas. She finished the first set in a more familiar spot, drilling a kill off the Raiders’ block.
The second set opened the same way as the first, with Furey smacking the ball silly. She threw in a block a few points later to stake Ursuline to a 5-0 lead. The Pandas stayed close, and they forged a tie at 11 on a Raiders hitting error midway through. It was tied at 15 when the Raiders scored three straight, but an ace by Mackenzie Sobczyk knotted it up at 20.
After a timeout, Kylie Nocket put the visitors up a point with a rocket off the Pandas’ wall. Furey sent one straight down, and consecutive violations on Padua put the Raiders up, 24-20. Ally Stuebing saved one set point with an impressive kill, but a hitting error on the Pandas allowed Ursuline to tie the match at a set apiece.
The teams were close through most of the first part of set number three. One of the plays of the night occurred with the Pandas ahead, 8-6. Molen laid out to pancake a Raiders kill attempt, and during the same rally she sent a nice shot of her own toward the Raiders. But it was Nocket who ended the rally with yet another kill to cut the deficit to one point.
The Raiders took the lead, 13-12, and stretched it slightly to two points with an Abby Rzucidlo ace. Grace Palaypay of Padua brought her team within a point with a tip kill, but the Raiders took control. Nocket saved a ball on defense by running through her team’s bench, then returned to mid-court to score on a kill. Grace Nordmeyer added a block, and two Pandas hitting errors gave Ursuline the 18-13 lead. Padua scored the first two points out of a timeout, but the final seven points of the third went like this: Nocket kill, Furey off the block, three Padua hitting errors, Furey kill, and Furey burying an overpass.
Furey kept the momentum going into the fourth, opening the set with a bomb down the middle. But the Pandas responded by scoring the next five, the last coming on a Kozicki block of Furey. Ursuline fought back to tie it up, then take a small lead at 14-12 when Burns aced a serve. After Molen tied the score at 14 with a kill down the left sideline, the Raiders scored nine of the next 11 to take control.
Stuebing got one point back with a kill, but Nordmeyer sent it to match point with another block. Lauren Boysen went back to serve, and her swing fell untouched near the end line, giving the Raiders the win and a measure of redemption.
Furey led the way with 18 kills, while Nocket added 17. Those two, along with Rzucidlo and Nordmeyer, each had three blocks. Markel and Sydney Davis had 20 digs each for Ursuline. The Raiders improved to 13-3 and host St. Mark’s in the regular-season finale Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
For Padua, Molen had 16 kills, three aces and 14 digs. Palaypay added seven kills, while libero Sarah Pritchard was outstanding, finishing with 22 digs. The Pandas wrapped up the regular season at 13-2 and will likely be the top seed in the 24-team state tournament, which begins next Thursday. The field will be announced Saturday night; Padua and Ursuline will have first-round byes.