Abbie Mirabella has a scholarship offer from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, so her volleyball career is far from over.
But Mirabella doesn’t want her high school career to end, and she led St. Mark’s out of some rough patches and finished with 29 kills and 11 digs Tuesday night as the Spartans swept Charter of Wilmington 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the DIAA Volleyball Tournament at St. Elizabeth.
“There were a lot of tense moments,” Mirabella said. “We were down a couple of times, but our team just kept pushing. We know that if we work together, in the end we’re going to come out on top. We work hard in tense situations.”
The fourth-seeded Spartans (14-3) will meet No. 1 Padua in the semifinals at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Mark’s. The fifth-seeded Force finished their season at 15-3.
“We got the privilege – I don’t know if it was a privilege – of facing absolutely the best player in the state of Delaware,” Charter coach Dave Stover said of Mirabella. “The hope was, with her in the front we’d only be behind a little. Then hopefully we could make it up when she was in the back. We weren’t going to stop her. No one has stopped her all year.”
Three kills by Mirabella pushed the Spartans up 13-8 in the first game, but the Force went on a furious rally. Charter won 12 of the next 15 points, and Olivia DiMaio’s kill put the Force up 20-16.
But St. Mark’s reeled off eight straight points – including three kills and a block by Mirabella. The Spartans’ Claudia Seemans set up Mirabella for the final kill in a 25-22 win.
“It is probably one of the most exciting feelings, being able to set a D-I athlete and know that I’m the person that’s doing it,” Seemans said. “She has been one of my best friends for so long. For these past couple of years, to be able to do that, it’s been great.”
Charter jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second game, only to see St. Mark’s chip its way back to tie it at 13. Then the Spartans ripped off 12 of the next 15 points – with Peyton Reno chipping in three kills – to win 25-16.
“We recovered by [coach] Nancy [Griskowitz] telling us where to go on their defense,” Reno said. “All week, we’ve been studying for their defense and for their blocks, because we knew their hitting and their blocking is what they are known for.”
The Spartans were in control through most of the third game, building a 23-11 lead before the Force rallied to win six of the next seven points. But a net violation on Charter finished a 25-17 St. Mark’s victory and completed the sweep.
It was the seventh straight time the Force has been eliminated in the quarterfinals – five times by the Spartans. DiMaio led the Force with nine kills and five digs.
“It’s a bad tradition,” Stover said. “We always seem to get a draw with St. Mark’s or Ursuline in the second round.
“I have some really good hitters,” Stover added. “The difference was, St. Mark’s got more swings because they passed the ball better. When we got the ball to our hitters, we put some balls down on them.”