Smyrna vs Saint Marks Volleyball photo courtesy of Ben Fulton

View from the Baseline: First round of playoffs

Jason WinchellHeadlines, Sports

Smyrna vs Saint Marks Volleyball photo courtesy of Ben Fulton

Smyrna vs Saint Marks Volleyball, photo courtesy of Ben Fulton

Tournament fever is in the air. One of the most exciting championship events on the high school calendar is just a few days away.

The volleyball postseason got going on Wednesday and Thursday, with four first-round matches each night. The second round took  place Friday and Saturday.

Saint Mark’s is the top seed despite a loss in the regular-season finale to Ursuline. The Spartans were one of three teams to finish 14-1 this year along with Smyrna and Tower Hill. Interestingly, the Spartans and Hillers both lost to Ursuline. Saint Mark’s handed Smyrna its lone setback.

Sanford, which earned the final spot in the 24-team bracket on a three-way tiebreaker, is back in the field for the first time since 2015 and just the second time since the turn of the century. They are led by Sarah Cushing, the former Padua standout who was a member of the Pandas’ state championship teams in 2013 and ’14. They visit Tower Hill, the ninth seed, on Thursday.

The 16th seed, Sussex Academy, earned a spot by virtue of their Henlopen South championship. The Seahawks, under the direction of Hailee Gooch, are making just their second appearance since their first varsity season in 2015. They lost to Red Lion in the first round in 2017. Sussex Academy will host Friends on Thursday.

And Delaware Military Academy secured a spot in the field with a four-match winning streak to end the regular season. That included a big sweep of Middletown, the eighth seed. DMA had to move a few home games while repairs were made to their home court, and coach Nikki Kinnier has missed much of the season. Former Seahawks standout Cassie Kowalski has been leading the team. DMA, the 21st seed, will play at St. Georges on Wednesday.

All games through the quarterfinals will be played at home sites at 6:30 p.m., although the starting times are subject to change. The semifinals will be at the Bob Carpenter Center on Nov. 13, with the first match at 6 p.m., and the finals are at the Bob on Nov. 16. Tickets for the first and second rounds, and the quarterfinals, will be available at

The top 10, listed below, is not the same as the seeding for the tournament.


Top 10

No. 1 Saint Mark’s (No. 1 seed) is looking to win another title after losing in the championship last season to Tower Hill.


No. 2 Smyrna (No. 2 seed) also bowed out of the tournament last year with a loss to Tower Hill. The Eagles are riding a five-match winning streak, plus they won the Henlopen Conference title match.


No. 3 Ursuline (No. 4 seed) knocked off Saint Mark’s in the regular-season finale, a five-set marathon that lasted well over two hours. The Raiders will be a tough out.


No. 4 Tower Hill (No. 9 seed) wears the crown. The Hillers’ seeding was affected by their relative lack of bonus points, but they won as the ninth seed last year.


No. 5 Padua (No. 5 seed) has played as many tournament teams as anyone in Delaware as the tourney begins. In addition, they defeated two out-of-state powerhouses.


No. 6 Caesar Rodney (No. 3 seed) continued its red-hot play in the regular season’s final week. The Riders will be tested in the second round when either Caravel or Archmere visits Camden-Wyoming.


No. 7 Newark Charter (No. 7 seed) is surging. They enjoy a formidable home-court advantage and will be there against either Dover or Conrad in the second round.


No. 8 Dover (No. 10 seed) made just two trips to New Castle County this season, but keen volleyball observers know the Senators are a dangerous squad. 


No. 9 Wilmington Charter (No. 6 seed) is off until the second round despite two losses in their final three matches thanks to their strong schedule. The Force have played the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh, ninth and 10th seeds this year.


No. 10 Archmere (No. 14 seed) lost six times this season, but five of those came to teams in the top nine seeds in the tournament. The other was to Appoquinimink, the 13th seed. An Auks team on the right page is capable of a deep tournament run.

Volleyball Bracket Girls 2023

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