Mount de Sales rallies in all three sets to sweep St. Paul’s
After coming out of nowhere to win the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference volleyball championship last year, Mount de Sales found itself the hunted instead of the hunter this season.
The No. 5 Sailors wore the mantle well Saturday night, rallying in all three sets to defeat a scrappy St. Paul’s team, 25-20, 26-24, 25-20 and repeat as A Conference champions at Goucher.
As has been the case most of the year, the Sailors (14-3) were led by returning AllMetro performers Mary Grace Goyena and Chidinma Onukwugha.
“We had some slow starts in all three of the [sets], but we came together,” Onukwugha said. “They beat us in five [Oct. 19], so we really wanted to come out here and do this in three this time. We played with a target on our back this year, and that definitely made it more challenging.”
“I’m really happy for the girls,” said first-year Sailors coach Pat Dayton, who was an assistant at St. Paul’s last season. “We talked a lot about [being the defending champion], and how we were going to get everybody’s best this season. We had some bumps along the way, but I think we handled it well.”
The Sailors actually found themselves trailing for a good portion of the first set, but settled down in the middle. The rally was sparked by junior Grace Wallace, who served six straight service winners and changed a 17-15 deficit into a 19-18 lead. After a kill tied the set at 19, the Sailors used blocks by Goyena and Onukwugha to outscore the Gators, 6-1, and take the first set.
The second set was like a tale of two different teams for the Sailors. St. Paul’s (15-4) repeatedly capitalized on Mount de Sales’ mistakes, but couldn’t put the Sailors away. With St. Paul’s leading 21-16 after a kill by Jalen Dickerson, Mount de Sales came back. The Sailors got four kills by Onukwugha to roar back for a 26-24 victory.
The third set was pretty much a copy of the previous two, with the Sailors using kills by Onukwugha, Goyena and Abby Kuhn down the stretch to break a 17-17 tie and earn a 25-20 win.
St. Paul’s coach Kelli Wilkinson was upbeat about her team’s performance.
“If you’d have told me at the start of the year that we’d be here, I’d have laughed at you,” Wilkinson said. “We made a lot of unforced errors in the match, and that and our lack of offense did us in. You just can’t make errors like that against a team like Mount de Sales.”