By CHRIS RAMBO
SALEM-Last season, the Salem volleyball team was beaten twice by Minerva. However, it quickly became apparent Wednesday night that history would not repeat itself.
The Quakers came out on fire on their way to dispatching the Lions, 25-13, 25-20, 25-22, in a Northeastern Buckeye Conference opener at Cabas Gymnasium.
"We are really working hard to win the conference title this year," Salem junior Kacey Costal said. "We knew we couldn't let them beat us again. We came out and set the tone tonight."
Salem, which improves to 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the NBC, came out on a mission as the Quakers raced off to a sizable leads in each of the first two games.
Key to the effort was the big hitting of Costal and her fellow junior Maria Shivers, each of whom finished the night with nine kills.
"Our passing was really on in the first game," Salem coach Allie Winner said. "If we can get passes to the net, our middle hitters are pretty unstoppable."
"Every hitter was on to start tonight," Costal said. "It made a big difference ."
Also chipping in for the Quakers was Kelly Barley-a varsity newcomer-with eight digs and 28 assists. Barley is one of a handful of players attempting to step up after the Quakers lost four seniors from last season's district finalist squad.
"We lost some really good defensive players from last season," Winner said. "Defense and serve receiving are the two areas that need the most work right now. Offensively we have the hitters to be really good."
Minerva-which falls to 0-1 overall-struggled for most of the night as the Lions felt the absence of two-time NBC Player of the Year Maddie Fischer, who graduated. Jordan Diels led Minerva with 10 kills, while Bri Gassman had nine kills and Kelseigh Holderbaum had 22 assists.
"We have some younger players, but everyone sacrificed their summer to be ready for the season," Minerva coach Tiffany Oaks said. "Tonight we were hit by a little bit of nerves early in the match. It wasn't until the third game that we really woke up."
The Lions regrouped and made the third game interesting, closing within two points on three different occasions. However, Costal came through with some clutch play down the stretch to seal the deal.
"We got down a little bit and stopped talking out there," Costal said. "But once coach gave us a pep talk, we were able to get back out there and finish it."
The Quakers travel to Louisville tonight to take on one of their main rivals for the conference crown.
"Us, Carrollton and Louisville should all be in the mix this year," Winner said. "Winning a conference title is something we've talked a lot about.
The Quakers match at Louisville tonight conflicts directly with Salem's football opener at Mineral Ridge.
"We're a little disappointed we can't go to the first football game," Costal said. "But there's nothing you can do about it. I think everybody is just focused on our game."
"It's a big game for us," Winner said. "Louisville should be one of the top contenders in the league this year. Hopefully we get a good crowd at our game too."
Winner was coaching in a leg brace after tearing her ACL over the summer.
"It happened on the Fourth of July," Winner said. "Ironically, I hurt it while playing volleyball."
Salem won the junior varsity match, 25-13, 25-18. This makes their record 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the league. Leading the team were Allee Davidson-Chuck with three kills and two blocks, Ashley Foster with eight assists and Taylor Sienerth with four aces.