By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Salem Academy Volleyball lived up to that ‘underdog’ role during the 2018 season following graduating seven seniors from their sixth-place team in 2017.
The result was a fourth-place finish in 2018 as they graduate three seniors entering the 2019 season when the Summer League season kicked off this July at McKay High School.
It was a change of pace from playing the Summer scrimmages at nearby 3A rival Blanchet Catholic last season, but coming to Summer League the last three seasons has helped Melissa Holman and her squads build that team chemistry while helping her figure out possible line-up combinations entering Fall practice next month.
“I think we always are going into it being an underdog, but we know we have the ability to be as awesome as we could be if we put the time and effort in,” said Holman. “I think we’re going to be great competition.”
The girls had to step up big Tuesday leading into Thursday’s Summer League finale with only two girls on the bench as subs for their twin-bill of games. Though they start the night with the 5pm game, they had to quickly bounce back immediately for their next game as soon as their first game ended.
With the adversity at hand, the Crusaders opened their Tuesday action with a 25-19 set win over Country Christian after jumping out to a 16-8 lead. But in the second set, with the Cougars tying it up at 20 when the time limit expired and girls playing in different positions, Hannah Warde recorded the tiebreaking point to hand Salem Academy the 21-20 win to end the match.
For Holman, it wasn’t necessarily about the wins and losses here in July as much as challenge her team for those games in September and October where wins and losses do mean something.
“We don’t care if we win-or-lose here, we want to put girls in different positions and try new things. This is the time to do that. This is the time to challenge, try new things and fail and also be awesome,” said Holman.
Their next match however, against 1A power St. Paul, it wasn’t exactly how Salem Academy would hope to end Tuesday’s games, but Holman admits that playing a good team like the Buckaroos will help them see how they can improve on the other side of the Moratorium Week.
“I actually appreciate playing St. Paul because they bring really good competition that we need to see and we need to be challenged by it. They definitely exposed weaknesses today that we’ll have to adjust in practice. So to me that’s a good thing, especially this early in the year,” starts Holman.