What a difference a year makes.
Remembering well a 3-0 loss to Ursuline in 2015, the Padua Pandas returned the courtesy. They marched into the Raiders’ house and left with a 3-0 sweep, 25-18, 25-18, 25-17, on Thursday night.
“It’s always fun to come in here and play Ursuline since we’re right down the street from them,” Padua head coach Lauren DiSabatino said. “They learned a lot of lessons from last year’s season and they came into this with all that they thought about it, all that they worked on and really used it to their advantage.”
Ursuline is rebuilding after the graduation of its two best hitters, but the Pandas’ offense surged behind the experienced hammers of junior Emily Jarome and senior Gabriella Welsh.
“This game we were redeemed,” Jarome said. “I think we did what I said we were going to do. We came out, made them move around, put (the ball) in different spots and got them out of their defensive positions.”
The Pandas jumped out to a 17-7 lead in the first set, while Ursuline shook off some early cobwebs. The Raiders closed the gap late but not enough to salvage the game.
Ursuline solidified its coverage on defense in a touch-and-go second game. The teams played to eight ties, but Welsh notched a kill and teamed with Emma Lucey on a block during a four-point swing that saw the Pandas pull away. They closed the set on a 6-1 run for their second straight 25-18 win.
“We showed our youth tonight,” Raiders head coach Susan Heiss said. “We have a team that’s mostly freshmen and sophomores, and this was a big game so they were hyped up. Padua’s very powerful and they have a lot of skilled players, but we had trouble serving and passing.”
The final game began like the second with six more ties, but Padua rattled off nine straight points to take control, 16-7. The visitors’ lead grew to 21-9 before Ursuline responded with six straight points.
Junior outside hitter Taylor Wright led the run with a kill and an ace. Wright led the Raiders with 10 kills.
“When I look at these scores, it looks much closer than what the game seemed like,” Heiss said. “I think we did some good things. Our blocking was good and Taylor and Corinne (Furey) were hitting very well. This is something we can build on.”
The Pandas recovered to close out the sweep with the help three thunderous kills from Jarome. She led the team with nine, though she attributed her team’s overall success to its variety of attacks on offense.
“I think this win showed us that not every ball needs to be hard hit like we want it to be,” she said.
Power rankings can change drastically at this point in the season, and even after a big win, Padua’s mindset remains the same.
“We talk all the time about respecting our opponents’ ability to play,” DiSabatino said. “We just focus on our own game and feeling out the ball. We tried to keep them off balance and when we had the open shots, we went for them.”