Smyrna falls to Caravel in volleyball tourney opener

Smyrna High senior Morgan Donohue sends the volleyball upward during Friday night’s playoff match with Caravel Academy. Delaware State News/Craig Anderson

SMYRNA — No stranger to the playoffs, the powerhouse Smyrna High volleyball program still found itself in somewhat unfamiliar territory on Friday afternoon.

After a roughly two-week pause to the season due to coronavirus-related issues, the Eagles returned to the court and were promptly swept from the DIAA state tournament by visiting Caravel Academy, 25-23, 25-13 and 25-17.

Second-seeded Smyrna hadn’t played a match since Nov. 17 and practiced for the first time since the layoff on Thursday. Rising to the level of play that earned a 9-1 regular season proved to be too formidable a task, senior captain and standout outside hitter Sophia Basler said.

“The season wasn’t exactly what we wanted with the virus and everything but I think we did our best to make the best of it,” she said.

“Our first practice was yesterday and we weren’t prepared to come back like this.”

Still, there was plenty to be thankful for, according to Basler.

“We started our season practicing outside next to the football field,” she said. “That wasn’t exactly ideal but we were super grateful we were able to come back at all.

“The administration did a lot of hard work pushing to get us back in here, which we were really grateful for.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted to but I’m very happy that we did at least have a season. It was (obviously) way, way better than not having a season at all.”

The Eagles charged to an 18-8 lead in the first set, but couldn’t continue the momentum from there as the visitors dominated the rest of the way.

Basler had 11 kills, 8 digs and an ace for Smyrna, while senior Sophia Lerro added 7 digs and 10 assists. Senior Hannah Osbourne produced 11 digs and 8 assists.

While coach Daniel Wandless said the team had agreed to focus on the task ahead, not the layoff and rustiness that came with it.

“The girls have been playing volleyball since they could probably walk, so having two weeks off, yeah, it might throw them off a little bit but we weren’t worried about that,” he said.

“We wanted to come in and play Smyrna volleyball and we were up in the first set for most of the time. Then the momentum seemed to change a little bit and we couldn’t dig our way out of that situation.

“My hat is off to Caravel, they stuck with it in the first set when they easily could have folded and started thinking about the second set but they hung in there and ended up scratching that one out.”

Coach Wandless described Basler as a “leader on and off the court. I told her as you go we go and she had a heck of a game. She was out there fighting.”

While the coach lauded the efforts of Osbourne, Lerro and junior Gianna Romano, he added, “I’m just very proud of all the girls on the team and am going to miss not coming to practice.”