NEWPORT – Even though second-ranked Padua Academy has a strong offense, it knew the key to beating top-ranked and defending state champion Delaware Military Academy in the teams’ highly-anticipated nonconference volleyball battle was to play stout defense.
That’s why the Pandas put extra emphasis on defense in practice, and that paid off as they often were in the right place at the right time to make a key dig or block en route to sweeping the Seahawks (25-20, 25-21, 25-21) Thursday night.
“Defense is so important. We work on it all the time in practice. It’s our No. 1 focus. We know that if we play good, solid defense, we have the hitters to put it down,” Padua’s Gabriella Welsh, who had 10 blocks, said “Our defense is what’s going to stop other teams.”
“I think we know that we had a good offense, but I think this year, we’ve been focusing on our defense more. I think defense is the key,” the Pandas’ Emily Jarome added. “If you don’t get the ball up, you don’t have the time to play it.”
Padua (7-0) set the tone of the match with a 5-0 run to start the first game and later used a 15-7 surge in the middle of the game to set up game point at 24-14 before holding off a late charge from Delaware Military for the win.
Neither team established momentum in the second set until the Pandas broke an 8-8 tie with a 16-7 run to set up game point a 24-15, but like the first frame, they withstood a late rally to win the game 25-21 and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
In each of the first two games, there was stretch of action where Padua took control of the action with a major run, which put the Seahawks in a hole was too much to come back from.
“They just came out strong. They came out fiery, and we were adjusting to their speed. That’s all it took,” DMA head coach Sydney Cook said.
The Pandas fell in a 9-2 hole to start the third frame but scored 16 of the next 24 points to take the lead at 18-17, but the Seahawks (3-2) responded with a 4-1 run to regain the lead at 21-18.
Padua put together one last run and scored the next seven points to earn a 25-21 victory and complete the sweep.
Throughout the game, Padua stuck to their game defensive game plan to stymie the dynamic Delaware Military Academy hitting attack, and the Pandas strong defensive effort was evidenced by a combined 90 digs and 22 blocks.
“We had a plan going into this. We stuck to the plan. We knew the players and their abilities, and they’re a great volleyball team. All of them are very good volleyball players,” Padua head coach Laura DiSabatino said. “We said ‘we have to do what we know what to do, stick with the plan, track the ball as much as you can and play. They rallied tonight and played their hearts out. I’m proud of them.”