BY ZACH GILLELAND
The Salisbury University volleyball team won both of its matches Friday during day one of the Sea Gull Classic, defeating McDaniel College, 3-2 and Virginia Wesleyan College, 3-1.
Salisbury (4-2) started off sluggish against the McDaniel Green Terror (2-5) in the first match of the day. The Sea Gulls couldn’t get into a rhythm early on, allowing McDaniel to capitalize off errors and come away 25-14 to win in the first set.
The second set gave better luck to the Sea Gulls. After a late rally from McDaniel made it close, a kill from senior middle hitter Jordan Lawson, who finished the match with 14 kills, gave Salisbury a 25-19 win in the second set.
The third set of the match provided the most back-and-forth action with no team able to create a sizable lead. Extra points were necessary as McDaniel took the third set 27-25. The set went down to the wire, but the Sea Gulls lost control with multiple attacking and serving errors.
Being down 2-1 in sets and facing a possible loss, the Sea Gulls were able to take the fourth set 25-16. From there, Salisbury kept the momentum, winning 15-10 in the fifth set with a kill from senior outside hitter Katie Stouffer sealing the match for Salisbury.
“We really focused on our side a lot, pinching our blocks in, letting our defenders [play] around the block and being controlled and not making unforced errors,” fourth-year Head Coach Justin Turco said. “Trust our defense, trust our block and if it’s not there offensively put it in there and keep the rally going and go for that good ball to swing at.”
Leading Salisbury was Stouffer, who finished first on the team with 21 kills alongside 13 digs. Junior setter Alexis Howatt had a team-leading 34 assists, 12 digs and 4 kills for the Gulls.
In the second match of the day, Salisbury took on the Virginia Wesleyan Marlins (3-4).
The first set saw another slow start for the Sea Gulls, but after a timeout and down 17-10, Salisbury scored 15 of the next 19 points to win the first set 25-21.
Salisbury would then win a tightly contested second set, 25-22. Virginia Wesleyan, however, would win the third set 25-22.
Behind a raucous crowd at Maggs Gym, the Sea Gulls were able to win its biggest set of the match, winning the fourth set 25-16. Sophomore outside hitter Nicole Venturelli had the final kill of the night, giving Salisbury a 3-1 win and its second of the day.
Venturelli led the Sea Gulls with 22 kills in the match alongside nine digs. Stouffer finished second with 17 kills, including six of them in the pivotal fourth set. Senior defensive specialist Shannon Russell provided 19 digs on defense.
With multiple comebacks and resilience during the two wins, Coach Turco is happy with his team’s performance.
“They showed a lot of fortitude,” Turco said. “We were down in the first match and they showed a lot of resolve; it’s a really good team.”
“They don’t let the score bother them. They just keep fighting. We have a ton to work on, but I’m really happy to come out today with two wins.”
In addition to the other Salisbury stars, junior middle hitter Sydney Davis recorded eight kills, two digs and three total blocks against McDaniel College. To add on to that, she finished the match against Virginia Wesleyan with six kills, four digs and seven assisted blocks, leading the Sea Gulls to defensive consistency in the win.
Looking forward to the future, a bright spot for the program was freshman defensive specialist Hailey Dougherty in her first match at Maggs. After accumulating four digs in the win over McDaniel, Dougherty was a force beside Russell as the freshman had 12 digs and two assists. Her digs came at crucial points in order to continue to rallies for Salisbury.
Day two of the Sea Gull Classic continues Saturday with Salisbury taking on Marywood University at 11 a.m. and then Elizabethtown College at 1 p.m.