BOARDMAN-On the brink of its third straight try for an elusive district championship, the Salem volleyball team wasn't going to let anything stand in its way, especially a Northeastern Buckeye Conference rival.
The Quakers made quick work of West Branch in Tuesday's Division II district semifinal, defeating the Warriors, 25-19, 25-20, 25-18, at Boardman High School.
"We played with a sense of urgency tonight," Salem coach Allie Winner said. "Beating them twice during the regular season gave us confidence, but at the same time, it's hard to play a team three times in a row. We definitely came out ready to play tonight. Everybody was focused on the job they needed to do."
Third-seeded Salem (18-6) moves on to play in the district title match at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against top-seeded Mantua Crestwood. The Quakers lost in the district final the past two seasons, each time to Canfield.
"We know how it feels to get to the district final and now we just want to finish," Salem senior Camrin Costal said. "It's been motivating us all year."
It was the tandem of Camrin and her sister, sophomore Kacey Costal, that helped ensure the Quakers will get their shot. Camrin finished with 10 kills and seven digs, while Kacey had eight kills.
"I was on the freshman team last year and to have the opportunity to play up on the varsity and play in big games like this has been a lot of fun," Kacey Costal said. "It definitely helped us tonight playing a rival like West Branch. It made it easier to focus on tonight."
Also contributing to a balanced effort for the Quakers were Taylor Holenchick with 13 kills and seven digs, Sarah Smith with 12 digs and Carson Herron with 39 assists.
"It makes a big difference when you have everybody on at the same time," Winner said. "The talent is there, its just been a matter during the season of keeping our head in the game and tonight everyone did a good job of taking it one point at a time and staying focused all night."
The three games were mirror images of each other, with the Warriors hanging tight through the early going before the Quakers-keyed by the outside hitting of Holenchick and Camrin Costal-steadily pulled away at the midpoint of each set.
The deepest the Warriors were able to hold a lead was 8-7 in the third set.
"We did a really good job of talking tonight," Camrin Costal said. "In practice this week we really worked on picking up tips and I think that helped tonight because everyone was on their toes and ready."
West Branch finishes its season at 9-15, including three losses to Salem.
West Branch was led by Lexi Pittman with seven points and three aces, while Pavin Heath had 10 assists and five blocks and Bailey McElwain had 13 digs.
"After the two regular-season losses we changed our defense tonight to take away their middle hitters," West Branch coach Penny DeShields said. "I think we did a nice job of that, but their outside hitters stepped up and that really hurt us. We took a chance and it didn't work out. They have good hitters across the board."
After the match concluded, the Quakers were already looking forward to what lies ahead Thursday night.
"It's going to be intense," Camrin Costal said. "I'm ready and the whole team is ready.
"I told the girls that a lot of teams don't get the chance to do this over and over again," Winner said. "We're hoping that the third time is the charm."
Crestwood (19-3) beat Hubbard 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 in the other semifinal. Both the Quakers and the Red Devils have yet to drop a game in the tournament.