By Sean Greene 1:54am, November 8, 2013 - Updated 2:03am, November 8, 2013
VIDEO: Highlights and Interviews from Padua's 5-set victoryDefending champion No. 1 Padua held off a strong No. 4 St. Mark's rally to return to the DIAA Volleyball Championship with a 5-set win Thursday night.
Padua swept St. Mark's in both regular season meetings, and looked on their way to doing it again after taking the first two sets 25-20 and 29-27.
Abbie Mirabella helped will the Spartans back into the match with a series of kills late in the 3rd set that turned a two-point match into a 25-20 victory.
St. Mark's also held a working margin in the 4th set, holding the lead after tying the match at 9. Again it would be Mirabella called upon to kill three of the last points of a 25-22 set.
The 5th set turned into a power battle between Mirabella and Padua's Jen Borio.
With St. Mark's up 10-9, Borio ended back-to-back points with kills to go up by 1.
Two points later Mirabella hit another kill to cut the lead in half, only to see Borio respond with a push kill after a great Spartans save to make it 13-11.
Finally, Vanessa Crumety would take a middle set and slam it off the top of the tape, which was ruled to graze the hand of the Spartans' blocker, to end the match 15-13.
Padua, which won its first-ever state title last year, picked up 22 kills from Borio along with 15 kills and 15 digs from Jennings.
Sarah Wiley and Alison Frey combined for 32 digs as they attempted to withstand the pressure of Mirabella's offensive assault. This week's WDEL High School Athlete of the Week had 38 kills, with Peyton Reno adding another 19.
Padua advances to face No. 11 Tower Hill, making its first ever title game appearance, Monday at 6pm at the Bob Carpenter Center for the State Championship.
St. Mark's will face No. 10 Concord in a best-of-three consolation at 5pm Monday.
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