WILMINGTON Delaware Military Academy had been waiting 11 months to avenge their heartbreaking volleyball state semifinal loss to Archmere.
After watching their two-game lead turn into a five-game match loss last November, the No. 1 Seahawks found themselves in a similar situation on their home court Tuesday against No. 2 Archmere. DMA built a 2-0 lead, holding off the Auks, who tied it at 17 in both games only to see the Seahawks, led by junior outside hitter Victoria Taylor and senior opposite side hitter Cassie Kowalski, pull out the wins.
DMA wasn’t going to let a repeat of the state semifinal loss occur and allow Archmere to claim Game 3 – possibly the momentum, too. The Seahawks elevated their performance in the third game, leading by as many as 10 points en route to capturing the 3-0 match win (25-22, 26-24, 25-13) in the teams’ lone regular-season meeting.
Taylor led DMA (7-0) with 20 kills while Kowalski added 13 kills and 19 digs to help send Archmere (7-1) to its first loss of the season.
DMA coach John Grossman thought his team was playing with some nerves during the first two games, November’s playoff loss still on their minds. Taylor agreed with her coach’s assessment and believes the Seahawks sent a message that they’re going to keep coming and not slow down against any team they play.
“It’s a really big relief,” Taylor said of beating Archmere. “It almost seems like unbelievable. It wasn’t easy. It took a little less effort than we were looking for. We learned that if we come together as a team we can defeat anything in our way.”
The Auks nearly tied the match at 1 in a back-and-forth Game 2. Archmere took their first lead of the game, 15-14, on a block and maintained a one-point advantage after the two teams exchanged points. However, after the game was tied again at 22, Archmere used an ace from Tori Mock and a DMA hitting error to go ahead. Twice they held game point, but the Auks were unable to get that final point. A Taylor kill and an ace by junior libero Kirsten Longueria erased the Auks’ lead to even the game. DMA middle hitter Lindsay Wolfe landed a tip shot over an Archmere block and Taylor connected for a thunderous kill down the line to give the Seahawks a 26-24 win and an important two-game lead.
DMA junior setter Sydney Fulton’s ability to spread the ball around to her hitters helped prevent Archmere from completely keying on Taylor and Kowalski in particular.
“Our passing, we kind of struggled with that; it wasn’t our best,” Kowalski said. “Getting up and getting big swings even if it wasn’t a perfect pass really got our momentum up and brings our whole mood up. I was just seeing what works for me. I tried a bunch of different shots and if they dug it, I’d go somewhere else the next time.”
Heading into the third game, last year’s Game 3 loss, which sparked Archmere into closing out the match by sweeping the final three games, was on the Seahawks’ minds. They learned from that tough loss and were nearly unstoppable Tuesday. DMA delivered hard shots and took advantage of the Auks’ nine unforced errors to build a 20-10 lead in the third game. Kills by Wolfe and Kowalski clinched the game and match win for DMA.
“DMA went to a whole different level in the third game,” Auks coach Mary Pat Kwoka said. “Their digging and their hitting, they were terminating plays around my block, over my block. My kids played phenomenal. I thought it was an awesome match. We’re just happy we were part of it. … My kids have got lots of heart and lots of hustle. I’m proud of them.”
Contact Meghan Montemurro at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @M_Montemurro.