Caravel edges Dover in volleyball first round

Dover celebrates a point against Caravel. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

WILMINGTON – Though Dover High’s season ended with a loss, the girls didn’t go down without a fight.

Caravel Academy eventually pulled away with the 3-1 victory over the 16th-seeded Senators in DIAA state tournament first round volleyball action at Delaware Military Academy Thursday night.

“They’re just fighters. All season, I feel like everyone has kind of counted us out,” said Dover coach Alaina Schleich. “It’s kind of been that way since I took over at Dover. But they fight for every single point and they just don’t give up. At the end of the day, it’s just nine best friends playing volleyball.”

With sets of 25-14, 24-26, 25-19 and 25-21, Caravel picked up its first state tournament win since defeating St. Elizabeth High in the first round on Nov. 2, 2017.

The 17th-seeded Bucs (8-8) move on to face top-seeded Newark Charter in the second round Saturday night. The game is slated for 6 p.m. at Newark Charter.

After a hard-fought 3-1 regular season victory over the Senators on Sept. 30, Caravel knew Dover (11-5) would be a difficult out.

“Dover has a tremendous bunch of athletes and they’re all good volleyball players,” said Caravel coach Mike Leclerc. “With any volleyball match, it’s a battle of wills and so they had their times to shine and then we were able to just execute and pull through. But they’re a great program.”

Prior to last season, the lone state tournament berth for Dover came back in 2006.

Now, in her fourth year at the helm of the program, Schleich’s Senators have made consecutive tourney appearances and put up a combined 22-8 regular season record over the past two seasons.

The Senators fell just shy in last year’s first round, dropping a 3-2 match to division rival Cape Henlopen High on Nov. 1.

“Two appearances in two years and it’s been quite a turnaround,” said Schleich. “We have just an outstanding group of girls in general and four seniors (Victoria Anyanwu, Danielle Doyle, Alexis Baughman, Dionna Miller) who really make a difference.

“It’s a hard loss, but at the end of the day, what I tell them is what we did is monumental.”

The Bucs jumped out ahead early and easily cruised to a 25-14 first set win, but both squads had to earn the wins in the remaining three sets.

The second set featured a tie score on 10 different occasions, with five lead changes.

With the help of strong serving, particularly from the senior Anyanwu and sophomore Olivia Czepukaitis, Dover eventually pulled away with the 26-24 win to knot the match at one set apiece.

Trailing 24-23, Czepukaitis served the Senators to the final three points to solidify the set win.

With a 14-14 tie in the third set, Caravel used a quick 5-0 run to take control of the set and pull away with the 25-19 win to take the 2-1 lead.

Caravel completed the win with a match-clinching 25-21 fourth set victory.

“They’ve got a bunch of really good hitters and they’ve got a good, athletic setter, so for us what we had to do is just continue to play our defense,” Leclerc said of Dover. “Everyone’s going to have runs, we didn’t want to overreact when they had a run and we just tried to stick together as a team.”

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