WILMINGTON – Delaware Military Academy’s Kirsten Longueira stood on the baseline Tuesday night waiting to serve as the Seahawks faced set point against Appoquinimink in the DIAA Girls Volleyball Tournament quarterfinals at the St. E Center.
Longueira waited for the Jaguars to finish a strategy session and the buzzer to signal the end of a timeout, facing a 24-23 deficit and the possibility of Appoquinimink rallying to force a momentum-changing fourth set.
But the sophomore libero for the tournament’s top-seeded team wasn’t fazed by the delay, firing off an ace on her first serve after the timeout to tie the set as the Seahawks held on for a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 27-25) win over Appoquinimink.
“I just wanted to make a smart play and try to get it in so we could play it out,” Longueira said. “[When serving], we focus on not saying what not to do. We focus on getting it in with a good toss.”
Longueira’s second serve set up a point ended with an emphatic kill by DMA sophomore Victoria Taylor as the Seahawks took a 25-24 lead. The Jaguars (12-4) weren’t done, as senior Sarah Figgs leveled the score once more at 25-25 with a cross-court kill.
But the next point saw Taylor’s second kill in the run and gave the Seahawks (16-0) a 26-25 edge before DMA sophomore setter Sydney Fulton launched her eighth ace of the match to end the set and secure a trip to the semifinals against No. 5 Archmere on Thursday at St. Mark’s.
“I was getting pretty intense,” Taylor said of her two kills at the end of the third set. “I just decided not to have all my emotions that come out of me and lose control of myself. I decided to calm down and get it in play.”
Although the Seahawks were facing the prospect of a fourth set, DMA coach Chris Stevens didn’t alter his message in the huddle during the timeout.
“I just said my usual spiel,” Stevens said. “You’ve got to fight for every point. Everything’s not a given. You’ve got to do your best. I just told the girls, nothing drops here. You’ve got to fight. Everybody knows we’re the ones here. Everyone’s coming after us so it’s our job to make sure we don’t get too far in our heads and relax.”
The Seahawks are making the program’s first-ever trip this deep into the state volleyball tournament and the key has been teamwork, Longueira said.
“We just keep sticking together and not letting each other get down,” she said.
And, with a roster full of sophomores and juniors making major contributions, the success this year may have come as somewhat of a surprise to teams who faced DMA last year.
“Teams that beat us last year maybe thought it would be a walkover this year,” Taylor said, “which we said it wasn’t going to be and we came out with our best effort.”
Archmere 3, Caravel 0
Archmere sophomore Zoe Akoto’s 11 kills sparked the No. 5 Auks to a hard-won, straight-set victory over No. 4 Caravel in the first quarterfinal match at the St. E Center on Tuesday night.
“It’s really important because the major plays each of us make keep us in the match,” Akoto said. “If I can hit the right spot, I can keep everyone fired up.”
The Auks (13-4) needed the combined effects of Akoto’s kills and four blocks from senior Emily Dentinger to outlast the Bucs.
“Caravel has some amazing hitters,” Dentinger said. “I focused on the blocks because I wanted to help our back row.”
For Archmere coach Mary Pat Kwoka, it was a victory that embodied the lessons of this season.
“We were trying to climb a mountain,” Kwoka said. “It’s about the senior leadership and the heart and the hustle and the team with a capital T.”
The Bucs ended the season at 11-6.
“It was an amazing season for us,” Caravel coach Niki Buckland said. “We just made mistakes at key times when we couldn’t afford them.”