The Padua volleyball team went 17-2 and won the state championship last season, but both of those losses were to St. Mark’s.
The Pandas crossed beating the Spartans off their 2013 to-do list on Tuesday night, getting a combined 29 kills from Allyson Jennings and Jennifer Borio and playing stout defense in a 3-0 road victory. The game scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 25-17.
“They had a lot of heart, they stayed up the whole time and they stayed in control of their emotions,” Padua coach Lauren DiSabatino said of her team. “I’m just really proud of their play tonight.”
The second-ranked Pandas defeated St. Mark’s for the first time since 2010 and improved to 4-0. The top-ranked Spartans slipped to 3-1. It’s safe to say there will be a change in the rankings next week.
“I think we did a good job of not psyching ourselves out,” Borio said. “We stayed calm, we stayed focused at practice. So we knew if we could keep our game in control on our side of the net, we’d be OK.”
Padua was in control most of the way in the first game, winning 11 of 15 points in one early stretch to build a 13-6 lead. Jennings finished the game with one of her team-high 17 kills.
St. Mark’s jumped to a 3-0 lead in the second game, only to see the Pandas rip off 10 of the next 13 points. Stephanie Annone blasted three straight kills to put Padua up 10-6.
The Spartans fought back to tie it at 12. Padua led 22-20 when Jennings splattered a kill from the back row that sent the ball careening into the back corner of St. Mark’s spacious gym. Then Borio came up with a huge block and finished the game with one of her 12 kills.
“I think we have the strongest defense in Delaware,” Jennings said. “We come out and play our game, no matter who’s on the other side of the court.”
The third game was close most of the way, with the Spartans pulling within 18-17 on Addison Reich’s kill. But the Pandas won the final seven points, and Sarah Cushing’s perfectly placed tap over the net set off a wild celebration by the visitors.
“We had some communication problems in all the sets,” St. Mark’s coach Nancy Griskowitz said. “We’re still learning how to play with one another after losing some key players last year, so we’ve still got to feel out some positioning. We just had some trouble down the stretch in each set.”
The Spartans’ Abbie Mirabella was a constant threat, finishing with 23 kills and 11 digs. Peyton Reno added five kills and 17 digs for St. Mark’s, but the Pandas made it a little harder up front as Ashley Muschiatti recorded five blocks, Borio had four and Cushing added three.
“We knew that they had really high sets,” Muschiatti said. “We knew that in order to play our game and protect our defense that we needed to wait and put a big block up, because they have some really big hitters.”
The rematch will be Oct. 22 at Padua. St. Mark’s will certainly circle that date on its to-do list.