MAGNOLIA — The sense of pride was evident throughout the gym at St. Thomas More Academy on Thursday.
One of the smallest schools in the state got to celebrate a state tournament victory.
The 13th-seeded Ravens defeated No. 20 seed Brandywine 3-0 in the first round of the DIAA volleyball state tournament for their second all-time tournament win. Set scores were 25-10, 25-16 and 25-18.
“We’re a small school but we have some gifted athletes and good students,” said St. Thomas More coach Julie Murphy. “This shows that big things come in small packages. We can do great things at a small school.”
St. Thomas More (12-4) advanced to face Wilmington Friends (12-2), the fourth seed, on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Wilmington Friends.
The Ravens are in the tournament for the first time since 2012. It was their first tournament victory since they defeated A.I. du Pont in the first round in 2005 when the tournament was 16 teams.
With a loud student section in its corner, it was obvious how big of a moment it was for the school.
“It’s super exciting because it’s the first time this has happened in years,” said junior Sarah Pool. “To have everyone here to support is awesome. It’s growing our program even more. I think we were nervous at first, but we used those nerves as positive energy.”
“It’s a big stage, packed house and I could see they were nervous,” Murphy said. “But I also know that I have eight girls who are true athletes and compete at the highest level all the time. Even in practice they want to win. I knew they would rise to the occasion.”
Pool paced St. Thomas More with five kills and six aces.
She wasn’t the only one to have success serving. Freshman Jess Crawford recorded five aces and five kills while senior Kourtnie Orth had four aces and six kills.
“We executed all of our plays,” Orth said. “Our setter (junior Gillian Crawford) did really well. She was doing a lot of running, I don’t know how she got through it. Our passes were on point and Sarah Pool just killed it.”
Orth, the lone senior on the Ravens, did a lot of damage at the nets too with a team-high nine blocks.
St. Thomas More has four freshmen on its 10-player roster. That youth hasn’t deterred the Ravens at all this season.
“We meshed right away and we communicate very well,” Pool said. “A lot of us went to the same middle school (Holy Cross) so it’s been a quick connection between us.”
Brandywine never held a lead in any set though the last one was the most competitive. It was tied 11-11 before a kill by Pool and back-to-back aces by Jess Crawford gave the Ravens a three-point advantage.
Pool followed with back-to-back aces of her own a little bit later to get it to match point and finished the contest off with a kill.
The Ravens asserted themselves right away, winning 10 of the first 11 points of the first set.
“It helped build our confidence,” Orth said. “We just came out and did what we knew we could do.”