RALEIGH — For the past few seasons, Salem College has fielded what amounts to an all-star team of former local volleyball standouts, and the combination has led to some of the best seasons in the history of the Spirits’ program.
Salem’s 2018 edition came into last week on a roll, and the Spirits’ train came speeding into Raleigh for a clash with another red-hot team, USA South Conference rival Meredith, in a first-place showdown for the lead of the conference’s East Division.
Unfortunately, the Avenging Angels narrowly pulled off the wins in three straight sets, 25-20, 26-24, 26-24, and took first place in the division all to themselves. However, Salem remains in the thick of the conference race.
The Spirits lost their coach and a few players after last year’s school-record 21-win season, and started the 2018 campaign off slowly, losing five of their first seven matches and then losing two weeks of their season due to Hurricane Florence. However, USA South play began when the Spirits resumed play on Sept. 22, and the team is 6-2 in conference play (8-7 overall), with its only losses on the road to the two teams ahead of it, Raleigh-area rivals William Peace (14-5, 8-1) and Meredith (13-3, 8-0). Salem will get the opportunity to avenge both defeats in the second half of the conference slate.
Nearly every local school is represented on the Salem roster. North Surry has sophomore libero Maggie Hawks, last year’s USA South Freshman of the year, and freshman setter Dixie Fulk. East Surry has sophomore hitter Cameron Sloop, and Surry Central is represented by do-everything freshman Brooke Snow, one of three Spirits who stands at six feet or taller. All five play key roles on the team. Elkin’s Corrin Shores is a sophomore defensive specialist. In addition, Stokes County is represented by junior outside hitter Taylor Moulton and setter Hannah Delcamp, also key players on the Salem squad.
Salem opened the season with two wins in four matches at the Route 42 Classic in Harrisonburg, Va, but suffered three straight four-set losses in the Maryville College Invitational on Sept. 7-8. They finally returned to action two weeks later, playing Mary Baldwin College and William Peace at the latter’s courts in Raleigh. The Spirits easily dusted MBC, but lost the first two sets to Peace. Salem roared back to win the next two, but then fell in set five. Hawks had 28 digs and Moulton 14 kills in the loss.
The Spirits finally had their home opener on Sept. 25 and won a wild five-setter with Averett, 26-24, 29-27, 25-27, 21-25, 15-10. A 7-2 run down the stretch in set five finally gave Salem the win. The team had 100 digs in the win, 34 of them by Hawks. Moulton led Salem with 17 kills. Sloop added eight, while Delcamp had 29 assists and Fulk 14.
That put Salem on a roll. On Sept. 29 at Greensboro College, it took nine sets without a defeat from the N.C. Wesleyan and then the host team. Moulton had 15 kills and Snow eight against NCWC, and Fulk led the team with 18 assists. Moulton had 17 kills and Hawks 22 digs against Greensboro.
Salem swept Methodist on the first day of October, then traveled to Meredith two days later. The Spirits swept Pfeiffer in a match where Snow had six kills and a block with zero errors, before losing to the home team to end their five-match winning streak.
Moulton is third in USA South at 3.24 kills per set, while Hawks is fifth in the conference at 296 digs and second with her 5.29 digs per set.
Salem rematched Methodist on Wednesday. Results weren’t available at press time.
On Saturday, they travel to Mary Baldwin to rematch with Peace before taking on the host team.