Quakers conquer Ridge, Tigers next

Salem’s Abie Cochran (15) and Caitlyn Marx defend against an attack against Mineral Ridge on Wednesday in a Div. III district semifinal at Salem High School. (Photo by Gary Leininger)

SALEM–Coming off a district title last season and a share of this season’s Eastern Buckeye Conference championship, the Salem volleyball team entered the tournament as a seasoned, confident team. So far they’ve shown no signs of letting up.

The top-seeded Quakers–ranked sixth in Div. III–steamrolled their second straight tournament opponent Wednesday, as they shook off a slow start and strolled past fourth-seeded Mineral Ridge 25-19, 25-7, 25-11 in a district semifinal at Cabas Gymnasium.

Salem (21-3) advances to its second straight district final and will face third-seeded Springfield at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Cabas Gymnasium.

“This year our goals are much bigger than playing in a district final,” Salem coach Sarah Hamilton said. “We want to make a long run in this tournament and we completely have the team to do it. They play selfless volleyball and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we’ve had so much success.”

The Rams put forward a scrappy effort in the first game and hung within a few points most of the way, but then the Quakers flipped the switch and the issue was never in doubt after that.

“We know that our biggest opponent is ourselves,” Salem coach Sarah Hamilton said. “Sometimes we try and do too much and we make some errors. For us, the focus is just on playing a crisp, clean game and everything will take care of itself.”

After ripping off three straight points to close the first game, the Quakers kept their foot on the gas against the young Rams, sprinting out to huge early leads in each of the next two games.

“We came out a little slow, but we realized we had to start working a lot harder, so we did,” Senior Josie Miller said.

Miller spread her 28 assists around, with Echo Mayer-Kutz and Caitlyn Marx each totaling nine kills, while Mackenzie Jeric had six aces. Kennedy Grimes came up with 28 digs. Marx also added a pair of blocks.

“We put so much work in over the summer and during this season so we can be in a position to make a run in the tournament,” Miller said. “We’ve pushed ourselves hard and we’re very confident in what we can accomplish.”

For the Rams, who had six sophomores and four juniors on the roster, Kate Lesko had 25 digs and four kills. Danielle Aulet had 15 assists and five digs. Lexy Haynes added six kills and two blocks.

The Quakers know things are about to get a lot tougher from here. They traveled to Springfield on September 15 and dropped the first two sets before clawing back for a five-set victory.

“Their blocking is phenomenal,” Hamilton said. “They have a very nice defense and they’re well-coached. I know it’s definitely not going to be easy.”

“We just need to stick together,” Miller said. “We have one goal and that’s to work together and do the best we can do.”