By Chris Mackowiak
After winning both matches on day one of the Sea Gull Classic, the Salisbury Women’s Volleyball team finished off the tournament with an undefeated record of 4-0 and the title of champions following wins over Marywood University and Elizabethtown College Saturday.
It was a complete turnaround for the Sea Gulls on day two. Following day one matches marred by attacking and serving errors, Salisbury (6-2) was sharp and consistent with few mistakes.
“It was really nice to see improvement from match to match this weekend. We got better every day and every match, so that was really good to see us utilize every point and every play to get to where we wanted to be for this weekend. It is really nice being 4-0 on a weekend, knowing we’re going to enjoy the day off tomorrow,” Salisbury Head Coach Justin Turco said.
Salisbury 3, Marywood 0
To start the day, the Sea Gulls faced Marywood University (0-8) which was struggling to start its season due to a lack of veteran talent and experience. With an offensive and defensive onslaught, Salisbury easily took the match in straight sets overall.
During the first set, Salisbury was led by their core front court players on their way to the 25-10 victory. Building off of excellent performances from a day ago, senior outside hitter Katie Stouffer tallied six kills with two assisted blocks. Junior middle hitter Sydney Davis joined in the offensive effort by recording four kills, one dig, and two assisted blocks.
The second set was much of the same story with the Sea Gulls easily climbing to the 25-11 victory through four kills apiece from Davis and Stouffer. Four team blocks of a total 13 came from the Salisbury defense during the set.
The true problem for Marywood in the match was their own errors, which Salisbury took advantage of. Five of them were committed in the first set with six more coming in the second. Marywood’s top outside hitter Mallorie Deschaine was held by the Salisbury defense to just seven kills on 30 attacking opportunities.
Leading the Sea Gulls to the clean-sheet win, 25-12, in the final set were two younger players on the team: sophomore middle hitter Gianna Savarese and freshman player Carley Cleland. Defensively, the two Sea Gulls were very stout with the two combining for nine of the team’s 12 assisted blocks in the set. Cleland also added in two kills as she fortified the front line during her first playing time inside Maggs Physical Activities Center.
“We worked so hard in practice this preseason, so on the court, just showing what we worked on in practice is amazing in itself, and being with this team that’s just so supportive is just really awesome,” Cleland said.
In the short match in which Salisbury only let up 33 points to Marywood, defense was the key. The Sea Gulls recorded 26 assisted blocks with three players providing over five (Davis, 5; Cleland, 6; Savarese: 7.) Senior defensive specialist Shannon Russell played fire fighter once again in the backcourt with 10 digs throughout the game.
“We really just wanted to set the edge and close the block. We didn’t really care where the block was. We wanted to make sure it was closed so that we could play defense behind it. They ended up setting a good block and got to the spot so that really helped our defense behind them that we had a wall in front to play around,” Coach Turco said.
On the offensive side, Stouffer led the way again with 14 kills. Davis chipped in with nine kills of her own, while junior setter Rachel Pierson set her teammates up for success well with 11 assists and four digs.
“I always have such faith in our defensive specialists and all of our back court players. They always get the ball there and you never have to worry about it. The chemistry on the team comes naturally to us because we’re so close as a team,” Savarese said.
Salisbury 3, Elizabethtown 0
During the first set of their second match, the Sea Gulls kept the momentum rolling as they stifled Elizabethtown College (3-5) with strong offense to win 25-8.
Stouffer and sophomore outside hitter Nicole Venturelli led the team in the set with four kills, while Savarese and senior middle hitter Jordan Lawson added in two apiece.
Set number two saw a little more resistance to the Sea Gull attack with Elizabethtown increasing their total kills from two in the first set to nine in the second. The defensive skills of Salisbury appeared once again as the team totaled four team blocks during the set with Savarese recording three assisted blocks in the 25-14 win.
“Blocking naturally comes to me, but it is also really hard to work on something so natural. So, I really focused this week on trying to get to the pins on time. Just putting that in from practice and coach helping me out in practice every day of the week, and then just transferring it into the game was just really simple,” Savarese said.
The third set of the match was the most interesting one for Salisbury during the entire day, partially because of a litany of Sea Gull errors. Salisbury totaled eight errors which provided free points for their opponents. Overall, the Sea Gulls had just enough offense in them to spark the win and avoid playing another set.
In the 25-21 set victory, Pierson stood out once more with 12 assists. Her success launched her teammates into their attacks, sparking Lawson and Stouffer to each tally five kills in the third set.
Leading the way offensively was Stouffer again with 15 kills and four digs in the overall match. Venturelli, off of her career-high 22 kills Friday night, recorded 11 kills. Junior setter Alexis Howatt spread the ball out with eight digs and 16 assists alongside two kills.
“Our defense was really consistent today, keeping the ball and really digging set-able balls. All three setters played phenomenally. They put up balls that our hitters really could hit. We have the talent to put them away, so when we get the ball there, it looks like that,” Coach Turco said.
Salisbury will next take the court Friday for the start of a two-day tournament at Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, PA. Teams that the Sea Gulls will face include Franklin & Marshall, Stevenson, and Ohio Northern.