Smyrna nabs Henlopen Conference volleyball four-peat

Members of the Smyrna volleyball team pose with the trophy and put up a ‘4’ shortly after earning their fourth straight Henlopen Conference title. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

BRIDGEVILLE — The Smyrna High volleyball squad grabbed its fourth consecutive Henlopen Conference title with a 3-0 sweep of Indian River High Saturday night at Woodbridge.

The Eagles (10-6), representing the Northern Division, earned 25-21, 25-18 and 25-14 wins to complete the conference championship sweep of the Southern Division Indians (12-4) for the second year in a row.

“It’s exciting. They came in as freshmen and several of them made the varsity team, that’s all they’ve known so far is winning the conference,” said Eagles coach Daniel Wandless. “Each year we set goals, and once we won the conference that first year we always looked at trying to go back and compete for another conference title.”

“When we came in [as freshmen], they had just previously lost in the finals and we really felt the responsibility to make history and be the first ones to be conference champions for the volleyball team,” said senior captain Morgan Holman. “It’s just such a great feeling to be able to come back and do it our sophomore year, our junior year and then make history with our senior year.”

Indian River didn’t go down without a fight, forcing the Eagles to earn every point throughout the three championship sets.

In the opening set, IR took the early 3-0 lead before the Eagles went on a run to build a quick six-point, 13-7 advantage.
Six consecutive points for the Indians tied the set at 13 points apiece, forcing the Eagles to take a timeout.

The first set alone saw a tie score 13 different times, as the squads went back-and-forth.

“This was a battle tonight,” Wandless said. “Early on it could’ve gone either way, nobody took a real large lead. It was point for point, kill for kill, very few errors on both sides and for downstate volleyball to be on that level with the amount of rallies and it being so close is exciting.”

Tied 20-20, Smyrna scored five of the next six points to pull away with the 25-21 win and earn the 1-0 advantage.

“Most games we do get ourselves in a little rut, we’ll get down a few points and we just can’t go on a run and keep the ball,” said senior captain Kenley Cook. “But I feel like tonight we just clicked, we fought for each other, we wanted this so bad. We really executed tonight, coming back from ties and just working for every point.”

Early in the second set the two sides went back-and-forth, tying the score on five different occasions before the Eagles finally went on a 7-1 run to end the set and clinch the 25-18 victory.

A 25-14 third set win clinched the team’s conference title.

“I thought everyone did a great job of staying focused and we played as a team, we didn’t play individually, we played for each other,” said Holman. “Every single point was to make the ball better for the next person, it was never to make yourself look good.”

Sophomore Sophia Basler led the team with 11 kills, while senior Isabelle Davis recorded four aces and Holman led the way with six digs.

Smyrna and Indian River will both await their seedings for the start of the DIAA state tournament in November.

“The upstate teams are amazing, but we’ve always battled with them and we just want to battle and show we are a good, solid team,” Cook said.

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