The Smyrna High School girls volleyball team defeated No. 8 seed Polytech 3-1 Saturday night at Polytech High School in the first round of the state tournament.
No. 9 seed Smyrna won the first game 25-21 and the second game 25-20 to take a 2-0 lead. Polytech won the third game 25-23 after initially having a 13-2 lead; Smyrna battled back but it wasn't quite enough. With a 2-1 lead going into the fourth game and facing a fifth-game tiebreaker, the Eagles took control of the fourth game quickly and finished with a 25-17 win.
The win was redemption for Smyrna, who lost to Polytech Sept. 26 in a five-game match. Polytech went on to win the Henlopen Conference Championship. Smyrna entered Saturday's game having won nine straight games since losing to Polytech.
Smyrna was led by freshman Kylie McCusker with 26 assists, 1 kill and 2 digs; senior Morgan Popovich with 16 kills, 2 digs, and 1 ace; and senior Raven Luckett with 8 kills and 1 ace.
Smyrna coach Danny Wandless said winning in the first round of the state tournament was a historic moment for the Eagles as this is the team's first time in it's nine-year history advancing to the second round.
"We've never done that before," Wandless said. "This is my ninth season as the coach; it's a sweet moment. I'm just so proud of the girls."
Wandless said the team was successful in the match due to the player's passing off the serves and setting up the shots.
He did note that in the match he saw individuals on the court and he wants to see the players come together as a team on the court, regardless of the end result of the match.
Polytech coach Trevor Bradshaw contributed his team's loss to mental errors in the match and noted that Smyrna has a great team. He credited both teams for fighting back throughout the match to make each game close.
"That's why you play this game. Someone has to come out on top," Bradshaw said. "If we played them ten times, I'm sure Smyrna would win five times and we would win five times."
After the game, Smyrna players were excited to have won in the first round of the tournament. Luckett said the team covered well and that everything came together. Popovich said the team played well offensively.
When asked how they felt when Smyrna was down 13-2 in the third game, Luckett said they simply didn't let the lopsided score get to them.
With the first round of the tournament now behind them, Smyrna is looking to the second round of the DIAA state tournament. Smyrna will face No. 1 seed Padua Tuesday, Nov. 5 in the quarterfinals. The match will be at St. Elizabeth at 7 p.m.
Wandless said the players just need to be themselves, play confidently and not worry about what's going on on the other side of the court.
"They just need to give it their best shot," he said.
Popovich said the players will go into the match like Padua is any other opponent.
"We've worked so hard to get to this point," Luckett said. "We want to win."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.