– The Archmere volleyball team knew Wilmington Friends was going to present one of the stiffest challenges of the season on Tuesday night.
That’s why it was so satisfying when the Auks held off repeated runs by the Quakers and won the big points near the end of each game to come away with a 3-0 home sweep.
The game scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 25-20, a good indication that defending state champion Archmere (11-1) had its hands full.
“Sometimes, the ball bounces your way,” Auks coach Mary Pat Kwoka said. “I think we fought hard. I think Friends is one of the top teams in the state, and we were fortunate to sneak out with a victory.”
The fourth-ranked Quakers (9-2), whose only previous loss came to No. 3 Padua, presented a variety of problems for the second-ranked Auks. The biggest was junior Alexandra Musi, who led both teams with 19 kills. But Archmere’s Zoe Akoto (11 kills, six digs, two blocks) did her best to neutralize the talented left-hander.
“They have a right-side hitter who’s left-handed, and she hits really, really well,” Akoto said of Musi. “She challenged me in particular. I had to adjust my block and make sure I was getting on the ball better.”
Friends jumped out to a 12-6 lead in the first game, prompting an Archmere timeout. Kwoka’s words of encouragement worked, as the Auks won the next five points. A few points later they went on an 8-1 run to take a 23-17 lead, and Akoto finished the game with a kill.
The second game was just as tight until the Auks put together a 6-2 surge for a 20-15 lead. The Quakers won the next three to pull within 20-18, but could get no closer.
“I thought we placed the ball well on offense,” Kwoka said. “I thought our defense moved pretty well. My younger kids stepped up and played in a big match, and I’m always proud of my senior leadership.”
Kwoka credited setters Kaylie Leclerc (15 assists, nine digs) and Tori Mock (12 assists, seven digs) with keeping the Auks’ attack unpredictable. Five hitters had at least four kills for Archmere.
“My setters, Kaylie and Tori, do a fantastic job moving the sets around to all the hitters,” the coach said. “Different parts of the deck, different speeds, different locations. When you have setters like that, it makes it easy to be successful hitting and putting the ball away.”
Sophomore Nicki Kelly finished with five kills and three digs, including a big blast down the line to finish the third and final game.
“We just been working really hard in practice on blocking and making sure we get our footwork right,” Kelly said. “We’ve been preparing for that team a lot, and we were ready to play them.”
Friends got 12 kills and seven digs from freshman Danielle Nathan, 32 assists and 13 digs from Alyssa Nathan and 23 digs from Katrina Skibicki.
Contact Brad Myers at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ