By Jeremy McDonald
DAYTON, Ore.– Following their three sets to one victory against Philomath on Thursday to start the 2017 season, Salem Academy looked to carry that into Saturday’s tournament at Dayton High School.
And they sure did as they mythodically moved through pool play and bracket play like a game-winning drive in football.
They defeated Portland Christian to start, then they faced their first challenge since the Lady Warriors in host-Dayton.
After taking the first set in a blaze of flurry, the Lady Crusaders saw themselves on the wrong side of a 13-5 hole thanks in part to service errors that the Lady Pirates turned into momentum to build that lead.
However, the mantra of the team this year is not to worry about the scoreboard and worry about one point at a time; and Salem Academy knew that despite what the score said at that time.
“Like our team, we’ve always had a close tie we’re like a family, we’re telling each other, ‘hey, we got this, we got this. We got to look to God and just trust in ourselves” said Grace Brown. “And slowly, one point at a time like Coach Ken says, ‘it’s about a one point game, don’t look at the score, just one point at a time.
“And with all those things in mind, that’s how we dug out of our hole.”
Slowly, the points came and as Head Coach Melissa Holman reminded them of, ‘one point at a time’ at the beginning of the rally; the once big deficit was now 16-15 as serves from Kara Standridge and Abby Mayta helped set up the strong play up front and put the momentum back in favor of the Lady Crusaders.
“It was amazing getting back into the game, we figured out our momentum and that’s all we needed. Our energy to get back up and…I don’t know, we really worked as a family,” said Mayta on the rally.
Dayton fought and kept it close for a few points, but Salem Academy finished off the two-game sweep of the Lady Pirates to improve to 3-0 on the year and put their consecutive set winning streak to five.
It’ll extend to seven with a sweep over Gervais, nine to start bracket play and it cracked double-digits at ten against Rainier before their next challenge:
Responding to a set loss.
Having dropped one set, the third game against Philomath, all year long; the Lady Columbians snapped the Crusader streak at ten with a second set win to force a decisive third-set for the Championship.
But, as their coaches told them all year long to this point, ‘One point at a time’ and focus on their play more so the score on the scoreboard; and that helped Salem Academy get to where their at now at 6-0 on the season.
“So our biggest goal this season has been, we want to experience everything,” “We don’t want to focus on the score, we want to focus and judge our success by how we’re playing. And even when we’re down and makiing unforced errors, we didn’t let that effect our mental play.
“We came out of it harder and we learned and we improved and that made it that much of a positive experience because they didn’t give up. We never gave up.”
And with a Kennedy team that has made it to the Elite Eight three out of the last four years in 2A, the Crusaders know that this confidence is good; but they can’t peak too soon as they did in 2016.
“It’s good, we just have to make sure we don’t peak (too soon). We peaked too soon last year and we got too confident and this year they know that,” said Holman. “This year, they are coming a lot stronger and a lot harder.”
You can sense that there is something special about this team already however, and that they are taking what happened in 2016 to heart as a personal mission in not letting it happen again this year.
And it starts with what their coach is instilling in them this year:
“One game at a time, one opponent at a time, one point at a time,” smiled Holman.
The Lady Trojans and Salem Academy will face off on Thursday, August 31 at 5:30pm at home before traveling to Blanchet to start PacWest Conference play.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald