By LUCAS MCCOY
The Salisbury University volleyball team has been handling their competition lately and is currently on a six-game winning streak. With a record of 13-5, the Sea Gulls are now set to begin the bulk of their conference play.
The Sea Gulls have an incredible front line of players led by junior Sydney Davis and senior Katie Stouffer. While these two players are the ones racking up the kills and scoring the majority of the points, the defensive unit and setters are what has been the core of the team so far this season.
Head coach Justin Turco and his team are coming off of a terrific 2015 campaign and are only looking to build on that this season. With upperclassmen making up more than half of the team, veteran leadership has helped the Sea Gulls to success this season thus far.
“The key to our success and the key to having a really good defense has been practicing,” Turco explained. “We practice at a level that we try to compete at, and the whole team has done well from this. I would say everyone that holds a spot is just as important as anyone else in that defensive back row.”
The Salisbury University volleyball team only has 5 losses after 18 games of play this season, but now the challenge really begins. The Sea Gulls will play conference opponents for the majority of the rest of their games, and Turco is looking to build on his team’s success day by day.
“We have been improving a lot week to week, and our team goal has been to just win one game at a time,” Turco said. “We take every game to heart, and every day we just try to get a little better. This is a really good team working hard, challenging each other in practice, so we just try to improve every day.”
Junior setter Alexis Howatt has played a very key role in her team’s success so far this season. With her veteran leadership, she is able to act almost as a director to her team and set up other players for success during the game.
“As a setter, my job is to set the balls for the hitters and run the plays,” Howatt explained. “I am almost like a quarterback, because I call out plays for every ball before we execute them.”
Positioning is crucial because the setter essentially dictates which hitter will have the opportunities to score points. While every position plays a key role during the game, without the help of a good setter, the team could fall apart quickly.
“My job obviously affects the hitters, but our entire team does a really good job of executing plays together,” Howatt said. “We are definitely an older team, we have all played together for more than just one year and I think that really helps with executing good plays.”
Another key area that has been covered well by the Sea Gulls is the defensive specialist position. The defensive specialists are the backbone of the team and without them, none of the plays to the setters or hitters are able to be executed.
“As a defensive specialist, our job is basically being the first point of contact and trying to initiate the play for the setters and hitters,” senior defensive specialist Shannon Russell said. “The setters can’t set the ball and the hitters won’t get the opportunity to score, so you can’t really do anything without the initial first pass from my position.”
The Sea Gulls have played against some stiff competition so far, so they are well and prepared for their conference games forthcoming.
“We’ve had a really good season so far and played a few teams that are ranked top-10 in the country,” Russell said. “We have definitely learned from those games what we need to work on, what we have done well, and what we need to do well, and it has really helped us grow as a team.”