By Lucas McCoy
Christopher Newport University defeated the Salisbury University volleyball team Thursday night in the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) Tournament semifinals, winning 3-2. This loss brings the Sea Gulls season to a close with a final record of 20-8 (8-2 CAC).
The Sea Gulls started off slow, quickly going down 1-0 in the first set by a score of 25-15. However, after a long talk with head coach Justin Turco before the second set, Salisbury picked up the intensity and tied the game 1-1 winning the set 25-20.
“They didn’t show us anything much different than before. They served a little more aggressive than they did in the regular season but we knew they were going to do that,” Turco said. “They played a 6-2 formation and we were ready for that also, so it just came down to a matter of execution.”
The third set of the game did not go the Sea Gulls’ way at all. With the match looking competitive tied 7-7, CNU started to get hot and Salisbury could not contain the Captains’ senior outside hitter Maddie McCann. CNU went on to win the match 25-11, putting them up 2-1 in the game.
With the game and the entire season on the line going into the fourth set, the intensity of the crowd picked up tremendously.
In one of the closest matches the Sea Gulls have played all season, they managed to fight through adversity being down 22-24 and came back to win the match 28-26, forcing a fifth and final set.
“Our resiliency is how we got here, and us being competitive going into the conference tournament. We just play hard every point and try to win every play,” Turco said. “We just try to win each point at a time, shake off the bad things, and build on the good things.”
The final set of the match came down to the very last moment and was a nail biter. The score went back and forth with the Sea Gulls tying the game up at 12-12.
Senior outside hitter Katie Stouffer was a big reason why Salisbury was still in the game, recording three kills in the final set and 22 total kills throughout the entire match. However, CNU was just too much for the Sea Gulls to handle and won the last set of the match 15-12.
“Every single point we wanted to play aggressively tonight. We did not want to let up or let any fear enter the court,” Stouffer said. “We knew that no matter what happened throughout the game, if we gave our best effort we knew it was going to get the job done.”
With this CAC semifinal loss, the Sea Gulls season comes to a close on their home court just one game shy of a conference championship appearance. However, a bright spot for Salisbury in this game was Katie Stouffer.
Coming into the game, Stouffer was just nine kills away from the school record for most kills ever by a Salisbury University volleyball player. Stouffer went on to beat the record by more than 10 kills, cementing her name in the history books of Salisbury University Athletics.
“It’s amazing to have that record and the kill is definitely the point you see, but there’s a lot that goes into it behind each and every point as a team to get just one person a great recognition,” Stouffer said.
“I won’t forget this moment for the rest of my life, but I also will not forget any of my teammates that have gotten me to this point.”