BY RICKY POLLITT
In a fierce battle at Maggs Physical Activities Center, the Salisbury University volleyball team took down Mary Washington three sets to one to advance to their fifth straight CAC Championship game.
All four sets were extremely close, with the biggest difference in points coming in the third set with a 25-21 win for the Gulls.
SU (24-7, 8-1 CAC) claimed the number two seed in the tournament to give them home court advantage against the three seed, Mary Washington (23-7, 7-2 CAC).
“Our team showed a lot of heart,” Sea Gulls’ head coach Justin Turco said. “Mary Washington did a very good job shutting our hitters down, but we stuck together through the ups and downs.”
After a strong first set from SU, the Eagles battled back to claim the second set with a 25-23 score.
Turco and his team made the necessary adjustments to ensure Mary Washington didn’t win a set for the rest of the match.
“We were too predictable, so we adjusted our blocks on the right side making our offense a little more diverse,” he said. “We just went back out, and our players executed very well.”
Junior Katie Stouffer continued to impress fans with her 21 kills on the night, which lead all scorers. Along with six digs, Stouffer came up and made big plays in the match when her team needed her most.
“We’ve had a lot of new people come on the court, and take on big roles after losing three starting seniors, so it’s great we have people that can take on a strong team,” Stouffer said.
In a team that has been built around youth, the one senior on the team, Kacey Franz, realizes her time in the maroon and gold is quickly coming to an end, but refuses to let it end without another championship victory.
“We’ve made it to [the CAC championship] every year, and I think this team can definitely win it this time,” Franz said. “To come back and make it to the championship after having the losing streak at the beginning is a big deal.”
SU now goes on to face the top seeded team Christopher Newport. The match marks the third straight year the two teams have faced off in the CAC Championship with CNU winning the past two seasons.
“We’re so excited to play CNU. We’re definitely looking to get that win and getting some revenge,” Stouffer said.
The Gulls have faced their share of adversity this season with the loss of several seniors, beginning the season 2-4 and experiencing heartbreaking losses to rival opponents.
However, the phrase “stick together” that the team has adopted based on a literal stick that is brought to every game has motivated the Gulls and let them know they have what it takes to be the best.
“This team has had each other’s backs this entire season,” Franz said. “We know we want it more.”