Could we be seeing a state championship preview this week? That certainly could be the case on Tuesday, when Saint Mark’s and Smyrna meet at 6 p.m.
The Spartans and Eagles are the last two remaining unbeaten teams in Delaware after two others who entered last week with no losses — Newark Charter and Middletown — both went down to defeat. Smyrna handed Saint Mark’s its only regular-season loss last season, and the Eagles returned their two best hitters from that team. But the Spartans were the ones that reached the championship match in 2022, and they have lost just two sets thus far this season, the fewest in the state.
Shifting gears here. It’s certainly time to start looking at conference races since. In Blue Hen Flight B, Dickinson enters this week 6-0 in conference, with Concord at 5-0. Those two are scheduled to meet on Oct. 19 in what will be the final Flight B match for both. Should they reach that day with both at 7-0, the winner would get the automatic bid to the state tournament.
In Flight A, St. Georges and Middletown enter the week unbeaten in conference. They meet on Friday in what could decide the conference champion.
A quick shout out to Wilmington Friends. The Quakers are 6-2; after eight matches last season, they were 3-5. One of Friends’ losses is to defending state champ Tower Hill. The Quakers have a chance to even the score on Thursday at Carpenter Field House.
In the Henlopen Conference South, the winner of the Lake Forest match at Sussex Academy on Thursday will be in the driver’s seat for the South title and the automatic state tournament bid that comes with it.
Matches to watch this week: Newark Charter at Wilmington Charter, Tuesday, 5:15 p.m.; Caravel at Tower Hill, Tuesday, 5:15 p.m.; Saint Mark’s at Smyrna, Tuesday, 6pm; Paul VI (N.J.) at Padua, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.; Lake Forest at Sussex Academy, Thursday, 5:15 p.m.; St. Georges at Middletown, Friday, 6pm
No. 1 Smyrna remains in the top spot unless …
No. 2 Saint Mark’s can prove otherwise.
No. 3 Wilmington Charter jumps three spots after a week that included a win at Archmere. The Force will be tested this week, hosting Newark Charter before traveling to Tower Hill.
No. 4 Ursuline holds on to the fourth spot despite a loss to New Jersey’s Paul VI. The Raiders have just one match per week for the next two weeks.
No. 5 Tower Hill has won six straight, but their schedule gets somewhat tougher this week. Before that homecoming battle with Wilmington Charter, the Hillers will host Caravel on Tuesday.
No. 6 Archmere will try to rebound from an 0-2 week that included a pair of five-set losses. The Auks are at Delaware Military on Tuesday for the first volleyball inside the dome since Sept. 9.
No. 7 Padua is playing well, having removed Newark Charter from the rank of the unbeatens last week. The Pandas are home twice this week for two big tests. First, Paul VI, which was at Ursuline last week, returns to the neighborhood, followed by Garnet Valley (Pa.), which is also a quality opponent.
No. 8 Newark Charter will have a busy week as it tries to rebound from its first two losses of the campaign. The Patriots are road-tripping to Wilmington Charter and Tatnall before a home tussle on Saturday vs. Cape Henlopen. They are in the hunt for the Diamond State Athletic Conference championship.
No. 9 Caesar Rodney has rebounded from its two losses with four straight victories. The latest win, at Middletown on Thursday, was the Cavaliers’ first loss. The Riders play twice at home this week before finishing with four straight on the road.
No. 10 Dover got back into the win column in its only match last week, and the Senators are back in the top 10 as well. Both of their matches this week — at Indian River and at Cape Henlopen — should be good tests.
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