By Chris Mackowiak
The Salisbury University women’s volleyball team opened up their three-game home stand with a win over Wesley College in straight sets Tuesday night. The Sea Gulls continued their fresh form in preparation for the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament next week.
Salisbury began the first set with a rough start. A lack of energy and pace from the Wolverines threw off the Sea Gulls with early back and forth play between the teams.
“We have to focus on our team and our energy. It’s hard for us to build our own energy when the opposing team isn’t giving us much back,” Salisbury sophomore outside hitter Nicole Venturelli said. “It was a quiet game initially.”
Wesley fought on the road to an early 8-6 lead over the home team. It was not until later on in the first set that the Wolverines’ lack of experience and depth showed on the court.
Multiple service and attack errors by Wesley allowed Salisbury to take control with a quick turnaround into a 12-8 SU lead. Salisbury senior outside hitter Katie Stouffer was able to get going as the match went on, leading Salisbury to a 25-15 win in the first set.
Stouffer finished the set with six kills, while senior defensive specialist Shannon Russell kept the game alive with five digs. The team finished with only two errors and a 0.481 hitting percentage in the first set.
The second set was more even and contested by both teams. With four errors on both sides in the set, the teams began playing into each other’s hands. Venturelli’s key points in the wide areas of the court seemed to turn the tide at times.
“It was about finding open spots. [Wesley] was really late getting to the pins. Our setters just pushed it out there, and I was able to get there,” Venturelli said. She finished with 11 kills on the night.
A three point stretch for Salisbury at the end of the set provided them with a 25-19 win to go up 2-0 in the match. Wesley tallied their best hitting percentage of the night at .174 in the second set.
“We were pretty sound in getting to position and then making moves so that the ball was hit right at us,” SU head coach Justin Turco said. “It’s just being scrappy and playing hard every night.”
Finally, the Sea Gulls went into the final set with most of the momentum on their side. Salisbury started out up 6-1, but the Wolverines were able to fight back into the match. Wesley forced a 9-8 game in their favor. A few hits would go the way of the Sea Gulls when sophomore middle hitter Gianna Savarese went into action at the net to seal a Sea Gulls’ sweep.
An 8-3 Salisbury run propelled the team back into the lead to finish off the Wolverines with a 25-17 result.
Leading the way on offense was Stouffer with 14 kills on the night. The Salisbury outside hitter now moves to only 42 kills away from tying former Sea Gull Stacey Krebs (’08) for the program’s all-time kills record. Krebs tallied 1,734 kills at Salisbury.
Russell accumulated 10 digs, while senior defensive specialist Gina Fischetti added in six. Freshman setter Rachel Dubbs with 27 assists was key in preparing Stouffer and Venturelli for their strong performances.
Wesley junior outside hitter Tionne Graves-Brown recorded seven kills to lead the Wolverines on the offensive side, but she also committed six errors which marked the night for Wesley.
The Sea Gulls will next head into their final two regular season matches at the end of the week. Salisbury will face Southern Virginia (6-14, 2-5) on Friday and then Frostburg State (11-17, 1-6 CAC) on Saturday. In the battle for conference playoff position, Salisbury is currently in second place tied with Marymount (20-6, 6-1 CAC), but the Sea Gulls hold the tie breaker over the Saints. Both teams are one game behind Mary Washington (25-2, 7-0 CAC).
“We just want to win the next game ahead of us. We’ll worry about Saturday Friday night after the match,” Turco said.