CLAYMONT – Padua Academy clearly has a target on its back as the defending state volleyball champions, but on Thursday evening the Pandas dodged another bullet as they outlasted host Archmere Academy, 3-2, in nonconference action.
Padua won the first two sets before Archmere rallied to tie, setting up the decisive fifth set. After losing the first point, Padua scored the next four and went on to a 15-9 win. The first four sets went 25-23, 25-18, 23-25 and 20-25. Padua improved to 2-0 on the year - both 3-2 wins - while Archmere is now 2-1.
The teams played evenly throughout the match. The first set was tied eight times before Padua secured the win. The second set was not nearly as close, as the Pandas jumped to an early lead and, while never blowing out Archmere, kept the Auks a comfortable distance behind. A service winner by Ashley Muschiatti ended the second set.
Archmere bounced back in set three to charge up the lively home crowd, which included a number of athletes finishing their practices. The teams were tied 11 times, the 10th when it was knotted at 13. From there, Archmere took control, scoring the next five points. The run included two aces by Archmere’s Sarah Donnelly, along with two unforced errors. Padua’s Jen Borio ended the run with a thunderous kill. The Auks held a 23-19 lead, headed for a comfortable win, but Padua scored four straight to tie it up for the 11th and last time. Archmere scored the next two points on Padua errors, however, to make it 2-1.
The fourth set started 4-1 for Padua, but Archmere bounced back. Trailing 6-4, the Auks scored the next six points, and while the Pandas stayed close, they could not overcome a late six-point deficit.
Archmere gets an early start in its next game as the Auks host Diamond State Athletic Conference foe Delmarva Christian at 11 a.m., while Padua also plays Saturday, at home against Avon Grove (Pa.) at 1 p.m.