Sussex Academy falls to Smyrna in volleyball conference championship

Seahawks’ Hailee Gooch named Henlopen Coach of the Year
October 30, 2023

Winners of eight of their last nine matches, the Sussex Academy girls’ volleyball team hosted Smyrna for the Henlopen Conference Championship Oct. 28.

“I'm really proud of the team for getting this far, especially with our chemistry this year. I feel like it just changed our whole aspect on the court altogether,” said Seahawks senior Tayler Flaherty.

The 2023 squad captured the first Southern Division title in program history and earned the right to host Northern Division champion Smyrna for Sussex Academy’s first appearance in the Henlopen Conference Championship.

“I think it was well deserved. The girls put in all the effort and hard work that it took to earn that title. Coaching them has been effortless. I've loved every second of it,” said coach Hailee Gooch.

Adding another first to the program’s young history, Gooch was named the 2023 Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year.

“I wouldn't have got named Coach of the Year without the help of my assistants and all the work that the girls have put in this season. Just being coachable, relentless and hardworking,” Gooch said.

Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, it was the Eagles who prevailed 3-0 in the battle of the birds. Sussex Academy’s loss wasn’t a result of a lack of effort, as the Smyrna team delivered well-placed hits with velocity.

Sussex Academy seniors Carmen Merrick and Danica Duncan added quite a few blocks and hits, respectively, to their records. Juniors Dymond Steele and Savannah Montgomery were diving and chasing balls all over the hardwood, and Flaherty was joined by freshman Grayce Glover and Maya Hastings in attacking the net alongside senior Grace Fiorilla, but it wasn’t enough.

“Smyrna has Anna Richardson and Eliza Schneider, who are top-five players in the state, and they're always really competitive,” Gooch said. “We knew it would be a challenge that we would have to work on and saw it as a big stepping stone and opportunity for us to see where we can improve more before next week.” 

The loss doesn’t end Sussex Academy’s season. The 10-6 squad earned the 16th seed in the state tournament and will host No. 17 Wilmington Friends at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2. The winner will travel to No. 1 Saint Mark’s Saturday, Nov. 4.


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