Sussex Academy volleyball falls to Friends

Seahawks fight hard in first DIAA appearance since 2017
November 5, 2023

The Sussex Academy girls’ volleyball team played its first state tournament game since 2017 Nov. 2, falling 3-1 to Wilmington Friends.

Boasting a squad that included record-setting seniors Carmen Merrick and Danica Duncan, the team came into the game having won eight of its last 10 matches and hoped to win the first tournament game in program history.

“We're proud of how far they came this season,” said coach Hailee Gooch. “Every day was an improvement in practice and games. And we're grateful to be in a position to play in this first round.”

The Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year noted how well the Seahawks blocked recently. Unfortunately, the Wilmington Friends trio of Eleanor Dealy, Scarlett Burleigh and Violet Perloff was able to find holes in Sussex Academy’s block. Dealy also featured a sizzling serve that led to 14 aces for the senior.

The Quakers won the first set 25-11 on the strength of a long serve streak by Dealy and a few technical errors from the Seahawks.

Merrick and the Seahawks responded well to the opening-set loss, showing they aren’t the program folks were used to in the past.

“This team used to be the team that people saw on their schedule, and they just thought, ‘We’ll check it off as a win.’ I feel like we've come a far way from that. I'm proud to play on this team,” Merrick said.

Sussex Academy battled back in the second set to win 25-20, featuring strong serves and aggression at the net. During serve receives, the Seahawks were fearless in making sure they got touches on well-placed serves from the Quakers. Senior Grace Fiorilla, and juniors Savannah Montgomery and Dymond Steele led the way in diving all over the hardwood to ensure victory in the set.

Friends seemed to be in slight control as the third set progressed, but Sussex Academy refused to go down quietly. Senior Tayler Flaherty joined Merrick and Duncan as the experienced hitters collecting points, while freshman Grayce Glover and Maya Hastings added some of their own. Down 24-22, Flaherty scored a pivotal 23rd point to keep the girls alive. But the Quakers avoided the extra play and won the set on a brilliant hit from Burleigh.

Sussex Academy lost the fourth and final set 25-17, despite a late rally to hold off Friends from securing the 25th point. With the 3-1 loss, the Henlopen South champions conclude the 2023 season 10-7 overall and undefeated in the division.

“We're hoping that sets a tone that we are a very intimidating and aggressive force,” Gooch said.


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