WILMINGTON – It may have been Senior Night at Padua, but when the Pandas needed a boost, they turned to a pair of youngsters. Freshman Emily Jarome carried the load up front, while sophomore Maddie Judge provided support from the service line as third-ranked Padua rallied in game three to sweep rival Ursuline Friday night in Catholic Conference volleyball.
Set scores were 25-17, 25-19 and a wildly entertaining 28-26.
While the Raiders were able to stay close in the first two sets, Padua asserted itself late in each to put some separation between the teams. Behind an outstanding effort from junior Kailyn Kampert and senior Maddie Hughes, Ursuline turned the final set into great theater.
Ursuline opened the third set with a kill from Hughes, and after Padua’s Lauren Mellor answered, the Raiders scored the next four points, the last on an ace by junior Nicole Raiford. With Jarome on the bench, Ursuline went on a five-point run to make it 10-3. After another Kampert kill, Padua scored on an unforced error, and Jarome and Judge re-entered the game and turned the set around.
With Judge serving, Padua scored the next nine points. The run included back-to-back kills by senior Vanessa Crumety. After a Raiders timeout, it was Jarome’s turn. She scored the next four points on kills to turn an 11-8 deficit into a 12-11 lead. The run ended two points later on a service winner by Judge.
The teams were tied at each point from 15 through 18. Jarome left with the scored tied at 17, and after the 18-18 deadlock, Ursuline scored the next four, including another Kampert kill and a service winner by Hughes. Padua, led by Crumety’s high-powered kills, bounced back to tie it again, this time at 22. The Raiders led once more, 23-22, but two unforced errors gave Padua match point. A Hughes block, however, sent the set to extra points.
In the extra play, Ursuline had set point twice, first on a tap kill by Raiford, then on a tap by freshman Taylor Wright. Both times, Jarome evened the score. The Pandas took a 27-26 lead on an unforced error, and Jarome – fittingly – finished the match by crushing her final kill down the left side.
“The third game was definitely the hardest for us, but it’s really going to help us [in the tournament]. We all have to come together and play so much better and harder,” Jarome said.
In the first two sets, Padua finished with comfortable margins, although the Raiders battled all night. The turning point in the first set was a six-point run by Padua, again with Judge serving, that opened up a 6-6 tie. A Jarome blast ended that set as well.
Ursuline had a few leads in the second, with the largest coming at 7-4 following an ace by Hughes. Sarah Wiley responded with two aces of her own to tie the set at 7, and the Pandas took a modest lead, but one they would not relinquish. This time, Crumety scored set point on a punishing kill sent straight down.
Crumety was one of five seniors honored by the Pandas. The others were Sarah Wiley, Stephanie Annone, Haley Baker and Mary Gallo, who was unable to attend.
Jarome finished with 18 kills, most of the very powerful variety, and three digs. Crumety added nine kills, while Wiley had 25 digs. Ursuline received nine kills from Kampert. Hughes had three kills, three aces and 12 digs.
Padua finished the regular season 12-3 and now waits to find out its seeding for and first-round opponent in the state tournament. The location is also up in the air because the Pandas cannot host playoff action in their gymnasium.
Ursuline is 7-7 and has one regular-season match remaining on Monday night at home vs. St. Mark’s at 7:30. The Raiders have played a very tough schedule and will see if their point total is enough to earn them a tournament berth.