Ravens excited as volleyball tourney game looms Thursday

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St. Thomas More’s Sarah Pool, left, and her Ravens teammates face Brandywine in the state tournament Thursday. (Special to the Delaware State News/ Gary Emeigh)

MAGNOLIA — Being part of a small school, St. Thomas More’s students don’t get many chances to be in the spotlight.

That’s why simply making the DIAA volleyball state tournament is a big deal for the Ravens.

“We’ve always got to leave our mark,” said junior Gillian Crawford. “That’s always the goal.

“There’s always going to be big schools like Polytech that get the publicity,” the setter said after St. Thomas More scrimmaged the Panthers on Tuesday. “We just have to go out and give it everything.”

The 13th-seeded Ravens (11-4) will get the chance to show what they’re made of when they host No. 20 Brandywine (12-4) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the volleyball state tourney’s opening round.

No. 14 Delmarva Christian (8-6) faces 19th-seeded Sanford (8-7) in the 6 p.m. game at St. Thomas More as the 24-team event gets underway with eight first-round matchups.

While St. Thomas More has a strong tradition in the sport — it made the state tournament in five of its first six seasons with a varsity program — this will be the Ravens’ first tourney appearance since 2012.

“We do goals at the beginning of the season,” said fifth-year coach Julie Murphy. “Every one of them said that — make the state tournament.
There’s only 160-and-some kids at this school. So to think that we could be seeded 13th in the state in a sport is pretty awesome.”

“We’re really excited,” said Crawford. “It (making the tournament) has always been the goal. But I think the goal was also just to grow as a team and I felt we’ve done that. It’s brought us where we are.”

St. Thomas More has gotten here despite a 10-player roster that includes just one senior in Kourtnie Orth. The Ravens also have three juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen.

Crawford is a Hartly resident who went to Dover’s Holy Cross Elementary School.

“It’s kind of rough because we don’t have a lot of kids,” she said. “We finally got a group of girls and we mesh well together. We’ve all played club together. It’s a good environment.

“We work well together because we all have the same goals. We all just want to work hard. Every practice we come out and just give it everything.”

“Every person on the team is committed and they all have the same goals,” said Murphy. “They’re competitive, they’re athletic.”

Among St. Thomas More’s victories was a five-set win over Caesar Rodney. The Ravens also lost a competitive 3-1 (16-25, 24-26, 25-12, 22-25) decision to Cape Henlopen.

The Vikings are 13-2 and are the ninth seed in the state tournament.

Crawford said just winning a set felt like a big accomplishment.

“When we did that, the feeling was great,” she said. “We didn’t win the whole match but you have to look at the small things, too.

“It showed us that we can stand up to anybody as long we put our mind to it.”

Statistically, junior Sarah Pool leads the team in kills, Orth leads in blocks and Crawford sets the pace in assists.

St. Thomas More has won a state tournament match before, reaching the second round in 2008. But that’s ancient history for this generation of players.

The Ravens expect their gym to be packed on Thursday night. The players made up posters and hung them around the school.

This is a big moment for everybody at St. Thomas More.

“I had high goals and I think we met them,” said Crawford. “I don’t want anyone to think any less of us because we’re a small school. I want us to be on an even playing field.

“We’ve got to go out there and work as hard as we can because nothing is given in any situation.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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