Salem College’s last recruiting trip to North Surry High School couldn’t have worked out any better. So much so, in fact, that the Spirits came calling again this spring.
And they didn’t have to do too much convincing to get Dixie Fulk to sign on as the newest member of the Salem volleyball team.
A year ago, Salem recruited Fulk’s teammate Maggie Hawks, a standout libero for the Lady Greyhounds between 2014 and 2017. Hawks earned a spot in the Spirits’ starting lineup almost immediately, and Salem went on to post a 21-12 record last fall, breaking the school’s single-season wins record by six. At season’s end, Hawks was named as the USA South Conference’s Rookie of the Year, an honor no Spirit had ever earned before.
She was recruiting her longtime friend and teammate all alone.
“I’m so excited about playing with Maggie,” said Fulk, who signed her national letter of intent last Thursday. “We talk all of the time and she is a big factor why I went down there. They are really building a program.”
Two other friends of Fulk’s, rising junior outside hitter Taylor Moulton, who played at South Stokes, and defensive specialist Grayce Goins, a former Surry Central player who will be a sophomore next year, are also on the team, alone with a number of other former local prep standouts.
“I know several of the girls already,” said Fulk. “Maggie is excited too. I can’t wait to get there and play with all of them, especially as well as they have been doing.”
But this isn’t just about reuniting old friends. Salem, as it did a year ago, is getting one heck of a volleyball player. Fulk is a three-time All-Conference performer who finished third in the state among 2A players with 858 assists in 2017. Her 782 assists in 2016 were second among 2A players, and she was fifth in the state as a sophomore, with 750.
Throughout her career, Fulk played alongside and against many players who are now playing college ball. Even so, she had already shown by the end of her 2015 season that she could play with anyone. Her coach noticed it, too.
“Ever since my sophomore year, playing in college is something I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “Coach (Shane) Slate and I would have our meetings, and he told me that he thought I could play at the college level. He told me that if I wanted to do that, then I needed to start taking it serious and working harder.”
Slate wasn’t the only one encouraging Fulk, either.
“I didn’t start playing until I made the team at Gentry as a seventh-grader, but my mom had played volleyball and she encouraged me to do it,” said Fulk, who plans to study biology in college and then pursue a graduate degree in pediatric oncology. “Mom and I would practice in the yard when I was younger.”
In Fulk’s junior year, North Surry went 25-5 and made it to the state quarterfinals. Late that season, she had two brilliant, memorable performances. In a Coaches vs. Cancer showdown against East Surry, she and the Lady Cardinals’ Bethany Clayton put on a clinic from the setter position. Clayton had 37 assists and 15 kills with just one error — but it wasn’t enough for the future Charlotte 49er to win, because Fulk had 51 assists with zero ball-handling errors. North won a five-set match 15-13 in the last set.
“It was close every time we played East Surry. It took a lot to beat them, but we beat them,” said Fulk, whose team won two five-set barnburners from the Lady Cards in her senior season as well.
In the third round of the state playoffs her junior year against East Wilkes, Fulk had another memorable win, getting 33 assists in another five-setter that ended at 15-13 in the final set.
“We went five sets and won the first two, and then they came back and it was point for point in the fifth set. We knew that if we made a mistake, it would have been over,” she said.
North lost three quality players off that team, including Hawks and Kaylee Freed, who ended up starting for Pfeiffer as a freshman last year. The Lady Hounds weren’t expected to be as good. They weren’t listening, though.
“Everybody bad basically counted us out because we had lost so many good players,” Fulk said. “I knew we were good and that we were capable of getting there. It was just a matter of us showing up to play or not.”
The Lady Hounds got dominating seasons from middle hitter Mikaela Johnson and outside hitter Paige Sizemore, who spent the fall crushing volleyballs that Fulk delivered on the money, time and again. North Surry went 29-2 and reached the West Regional final, where it lost a hard-fought match to West Iredell for the right to play for the state title.
There was never any doubt that Fulk would be one of several Lady Hounds who would be continuing their athletic career in college. Johnson had already signed for basketball, and Sizemore signed for volleyball in February. Fulk narrowed her choices down to Hollins University in Virginia and Salem, and decided she would play for the rising Spirits.