WILMINGTON – Abbie Mirabella had 31 kills, 22 digs and three aces, playing well from all positions on the court, to lead St. Mark's to a 3-2 volleyball win over Ursuline Thursday night at Ursuline. The scores were 25-19, 19-25, 25-16, 22-25, and 15-10. It was a long and draining match, lasting more than two hours in front of a large, boisterous crowd, producing the kind of play and drama Delaware has come to expect from two traditional volleyball powers.
Mirabella had plenty of help in the deciding fifth game, with Kennedy Staudt and Peyton Reno registering three kills each. Staudt and Reno also teamed up to block an Ursuline attempted kill for match point. The Spartans (5-1) gathered on the court to celebrate a big win over their longtime rival, while the hard-luck Raiders (2-4) suffered their second five-set home loss of the week. (They fell to Archmere on Tuesday.)
St. Mark's anticipated a grueling battle from the Raiders.
“It's definitely what we expected,” Mirabella said. “Ursuline's always been good, they've always been our competitors, and we knew we had to come out and play really hard. We knew Ursuline was going to come out and play their best, and we tried our best, and it worked out well.”
Except for the third game, when St. Mark's pulled away for a convincing win, the match was typical of this rivalry. St. Mark's pounded the ball into the Raiders' defense all night, but Ursuline responded by covering every part of the floor. Ursuline libero Erin Joyce and her teammates dug several spikes by the Spartans, catching a few with their knuckles as they were about to hit the floor.
Kailyn Kampert was outstanding in a losing effort, notching 18 kills, and Caroline Francois added 11. Joyce led all players with 39 digs, many of which are certain to leave bruises.
St. Mark's got to its fair share of kill attempts, and the defense led to several extended rallies.
“It was very tiring, but I knew my team could push through it. Definitely going to be sore tomorrow,” Mirabella said.
Reno had 15 kills and 20 digs for the Spartans, while Addison Reich added nine kills and Staudt had eight. Lauren Sorantino led the winners with 26 digs.
Kampert opened the first set with three consecutive kills as the Raiders jumped out to a 7-4 lead. Between all her booming kills, Mirabella feathered a ball over the Raiders' front line to give St. Mark's its first lead at 9-8. The teams were tied as late as 18-18, but the Spartans were able to pull the game out.
The second set was a tight affair most of the way, with Ursuline's lead at two or three points until Madeline Hughes' back-row kill gave the Raiders an 18-14 advantage. A few unforced errors by St. Mark's pushed the lead to 20-15, and at set point, Ursuline took advantage of an overset. Francois tapped the ball to the floor, and the match was tied.
St. Mark's led the third game, 12-10, when Mirabella took over. A cross-court winner made it 13-10. Gaining the serve, she extended the lead with two aces. A kill by Reno made it 16-10, then Mirabella executed a back-row kill and another ace. Mirabella ended the set with yet another kill.
Ursuline battled back in game four, taking a 9-6 lead on a kill by Hughes that was set up by a miraculous save by the Ursuline defense. The teams were tied at 12, 13 and 14, but the Raiders jumped out to a 22-18 advantage. Three St. Mark's points later, the last one coming when Ursuline was called for being out of rotation, closed the game to 22-21. On set point, Reno's kill attempt was blocked, sending the match to the fifth set.
St. Mark's plays again on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Charter, while Ursuline welcomes sister school Ursuline School of New Rochelle, N.Y., to Wilmington for a matinee Saturday afternoon at 3:30.