ALAPOCAS – Padua knew Wilmington Friends was going to provide its sternest challenge of the young volleyball season on Thursday night.
The Pandas took the Quakers’ best shots and rallied, coming from behind in the first two sets and leading all the way in the third to score a 3-0 victory. The set scores were 25-21, 25-21 and 25-15.
“Friends is a really good, well-rounded team,” Padua coach Lauren DiSabatino said. “Their setter is good, their outside hitter and right-side hitter are good. So I was expecting us to be tested, and we answered back. I’m proud of them.”
The third-ranked Pandas (3-0) opened the season with easy wins over Paul VI Catholic (Va.) and Concord. But that meant nothing to fifth-ranked Friends (1-2), which ran out to a 17-13 lead in the opening set. Padua called timeout and responded with a decisive, 9-1 run.
“We just needed to stay calm,” DiSabatino said. “I think sometimes when you get behind, you get a little bit jittery and you anticipate what’s going to happen. We just needed to calm down, remember everything that we talked about in practice.”
It was the same story in the second set, as the Quakers built a 16-14 lead on a kill by Danielle Nathan. Then the Pandas won 11 of the last 16 points to pull away again.
“We struggled in serve receive in the beginning, and we really couldn’t get a pass up,” said junior Emma Lucey, who led Padua with 38 assists. “But once we started to get it together in the back row, we have a lot of hitters and we could spread the ball around.”
Padua never trailed in the third set, winning the first three points and the last five to close it out. Newcomer Jess Molen had a team-high 15 kills, and junior masher Emily Jarome added 12.
“When we got a ball up, we could put it away,” Lucey said. “Jess, our freshman, she was a big hitter tonight. Emily put away some really good balls, too.”
The Pandas also did their best to slow down the dangerous Nathan, a sophomore who is a threat anywhere on the court.
“We know she can get up, and she hits it down, and she can put it in a bunch of different places,” Jarome said of Nathan. “So we moved our defense, and we’ve been working on blocking a lot.”
Jarome, primarily a front-row player the last couple of years, is making the transition to an all-around game this season. She added three aces, two blocks and 11 digs to her kills.
“I really enjoy playing back row,” Jarome said. “I think not only it helps my front-row game, but I can help the team a lot more, too.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.