Padua’s second-ranked volleyball team focused on two simple goals entering the fifth set, and that was all it needed to put aside the loss of a two-set lead and prevail 3-2 over Catholic Conference rival Archmere on Thursday night.
“We realized what we were here to do,” Pandas coach Lauren DiSabatino said. “Our main goal is go out there and play volleyball and have a good time. We weren’t really doing that in the third and fourth games. So we calmed ourselves down, took a breather and came back out fresh.”
A strong run of serving by Ashley Muschiatti in the fifth set gave the Pandas (2-0) an 8-4 lead that the No. 5 Auks were unable to overcome in the final set. Muschiatti had three aces, three kills and four blocks in the match.
“When she can get her serve in, it’s killer on the other side,” DiSabatino said.
The leadership of Allyson Jennings helped Padua stay steady in the final set as the Pandas attacked from the front row and the back row and kept the Archmere defense on its heels.
“Every practice, [DiSabatino] always works with everyone – back row attacks and front row attacks so that everyone would be perfect in every position,” Jennings said.
Jennings finished with 18 kills, two aces and five digs for Padua. Jennifer Borio added 17 kills and four blocks and Vanessa Crumety chipped in with five kills and four blocks for Padua.
“[Jennings] is one of our go-to players,” DiSabatino said. “She really has great court sense, and she is one of our leaders on the court.”
The Pandas looked like they might cruise through the match, taking the first two sets 25-23 and 25-18, but Archmere (2-1) stormed back to force a fifth set.
In the third set, Archmere took control with a 6-1 run for a 19-14 lead behind the serving and hitting of Sarah Donnelly. Donnelly finished the match with 12 kills, six aces and 10 digs. The fourth set featured a 7-1 run as Archmere took an 11-7 lead behind the serving of Madeline Guido and the blocking of Justine Pantaleo.
“We started to believe in what we do [in the third and fourth sets],” Archmere coach Mary Pat Kwoka said. “We play defense, and we serve. My front row did some nice things, getting some blocks and putting the ball away. We needed somebody to do that.”
But in the end, Padua was able to collect itself and fend off the Archmere comeback.
“We had a little mental breakdown,” DiSabatino said of the third and fourth sets. “They played awesome defense. They were picking up everything that we were throwing their way. We broke down a little bit. But in the fifth game, we got ourselves together and got ourselves right back.”