When the volleyball was on the St. Mark’s side of the court this season, there was no secret about what the Spartans were planning to do.
They wanted to get it to Abbie Mirabella, and they counted on her to finish the point.
“Everybody in the state knew where it was going to go,” St. Mark’s coach Nancy Griskowitz said. “But she was still successful.”
Mirabella fought through defenses that were tailored to stop her and finished with 409 kills, a total Griskowitz believes is a state record. So it was no surprise that she was named Delaware’s Volleyball Player of the Year in voting by the state’s head coaches.
“I really started noticing that people were going out of their way to try to stop me,” Mirabella said. “It kind of made me push harder, because I wanted to show I can get through these triple and double blocks. Even when they do stop me and I get blocked or dug out by another girl, it doesn’t really bother me.”
Mirabella closed a stellar four-year career with 1,029 kills, 203 assists and 596 digs. Her overwhelming kill total drew most of the attention, but she did it all as the Spartans went 65-10 over the last four seasons.
She started out as St. Mark’s setter as a freshman, and her coach immediately recognized her potential.
“Her volleyball IQ was higher than your average freshman,” Griskowitz said. “She had very good fundamentals. … She just had a desire to excel and be the best she could be.”
Mirabella continued to grow and reached 6 feet but maintained the quickness and agility of shorter players. She found success at every spot.
“The only position I never played is libero, because it’s usually the shorter passer,” Mirabella said. “But I’ve pretty much played everywhere. I’m pretty good at adapting to different positions, and it’s just been a blessing, getting an opportunity to show different skills in each position.”
Griskowitz said Mirabella’s kills often overshadowed her other stats. She also earned 184 digs during her senior year.
“What isn’t seen in those statistics is her serve receive,” the coach said. “She was one of my best passers, and I always wanted her back on serve receive because of that. That kind of translated to defense, too. She always knew how to read the play and where to be on defense to get those digs.”
The Spartans capped Mirabella’s freshman and sophomore seasons with DIAA state championships but watched Padua hoist the trophy the last two years. Mirabella was at her best in a 3-2 loss to the Pandas in this year’s DIAA semifinals, unleashing 38 kills and 10 digs. But Padua gutted out a 15-13 win in the fifth game to stay unbeaten.
“Definitely over the past couple of years, I’ve been working on switching up my shots,” Mirabella said. “Because I know that I’m facing some tall girls, like the Padua team and other teams that are very tall. … I had to work a lot on not just going for power, but going for more finesse and hitting more shots.”
Mirabella shouldered most of the offensive load this season because for the first time, she was playing without former Spartans star Lauren Talley by her side. Talley graduated last year after earning 894 career kills and now plays at the University of Delaware.
“It was definitely different, because she was always my partner,” Mirabella said of Talley. “I would go to the back row, she would come to the front row and we really were like a double threat. It was definitely hard, because I played with her for three years, but I think the girls filled in her spot pretty well.”
Mirabella received plenty of recruiting interest and considered Temple, High Point, Bucknell, Towson and James Madison before signing with Maryland-Baltimore County. She plans to study psychology, with an emphasis on behavioral analysis to benefit cognitive disabilities.
“UMBC was the last school that I looked at,” Mirabella said. “It was really just the area, the coach, the girls. Everything just kind of fit perfectly. … Really after that, I never looked anywhere else. People were trying to reach out to me, but I was just like, ‘I’m done. I know exactly where I want to be.'”
Opponents knew exactly where they didn’t want to be this season – on the other side of the net, with the ball floating toward Abbie Mirabella.