Dover defeats Smyrna in volleyball for first time since 2006

Dover’s Kimberly Czepukaitis, Anna Canalichio and Olivia Czepukaitis celebrate.

DOVER – Needing just one point to clinch the match, Dover High volleyball coach Alaina Schleich took a timeout and huddled her team together one last time.

Two serves later, the Senators tallied the winning point to edge Henlopen North foe Smyrna High, three sets to two, in front of the home crowd Thursday night.

It marks the first time Dover has defeated Smyrna since the 2006 season. The Senators (8-1) hadn’t even won a set against the Eagles since 2014.

“I brought them in tight (during the timeout) and I said, ‘listen guys, it’s you nine out there. Not everyone in the crowd, not Smyrna, it’s just the nine of you. You have to make this point, let’s do it.’ And we did,” said Schleich. “To say I’m proud is not even a good enough word. They’re a very special group of girls.”

It’s the first conference loss for Smyrna since falling, 3-1, in the Henlopen Conference championship against Delmar High on Oct. 27, 2014. It’s also the first regular season conference loss since dropping a 3-2 loss against Polytech High on Sept. 26, 2013.

“We went 25-2 in a set against Smyrna my freshman year, so just seeing where we are now is literally a dream come true for me,” said senior middle blocker Danielle Doyle.

With the last four conference titles belonging to Smyrna, Schleich hopes the team’s 13-25, 25-14, 25-19, 24-26, 15-11 conference win, which came just three days after suffering its first loss of the season at Caravel Academy, turns into a “changing of the guard” within the conference.

“There’s a new kid in town,” she said, with a smile. “That’s exactly how we feel, there’s a new kid on the block.”

“We’re bonding, we’re having fun and we’re just playing so well on the court,” said senior outside hitter Victoria Anyanwu. “I’m just so proud of everyone for working so hard.”

The Eagles (7-3), coming off a 3-2 win just 24 hours prior, cruised to a double-digit win in the first set.

The two squads exchanged early points and had a tie score at 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7 in the second set before the Senators rallied for eight consecutive points and jumped out to the 15-7 lead.

From there, the Senators used the momentum to take the set, 25-14, and tie the match at one set apiece.

Knotted 10-10 in the third set, the Senators took control with a 9-4 run and eventually rolled to a six-point set win to jump ahead, 2-1.

Facing a 24-21 set point in the fourth, Dover tallied three consecutive points to tie it at 24. But consecutive points from the Eagles forced the fifth and match-deciding set.

While Smyrna controlled the tempo early in the fourth set, the Senators never trailed by more than three points from start to finish. The girls even battled back from three-point deficits on multiple occasions and the set featured 10 ties.

“This team is just a battle-back kind of team,” said Schleich. “They put their heart into everything, and they come back. We got those two consecutive sets, and I wanted the fourth, but I’ll take the fifth.”

“When we get down, we’re able to pick each other up and I don’t think a lot of teams can do that,” said senior right side hitter Dionna Miller. “We’re just going to keep working, 24/7.”

Trailing by six points late in the final set, Smyrna went on a 4-1 run before Dover finally put a damper on the Eagles’ comeback and clinched the match.

Dover’s previous seven wins this year have been 3-0 sweeps, including three against Henlopen North opponents.

 “I think we’re just going to follow this momentum with the rest of the schedule,” said Doyle. “We can do anything if we just do what we did tonight. So, I’m really excited for the rest of the season.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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