Salisbury University’s volleyball team has 12 underclassmen on the roster this season. The Sea Gulls have not had double-digit underclassmen on the roster since 2015.
Many underclassmen have gotten bigger roles on the team as a result.
One of these standout underclassmen is outside hitter Amanda Chew. A sophomore, Chew played her high school volleyball at Northern High School.
Chew had a strong freshman campaign for the Sea Gulls, playing 86 sets for Salisbury and averaging 2.79 kills per set. She ranked second on the team in the latter, only behind standout outside hitter Nicole Venturelli.
This season, Chew has been the top option on the outside for the Sea Gulls. She currently leads the team with 4.04 kills per set in 55 sets this season.
Head coach Justin Turco said Chew’s performance comes down to her ability to take advantage of every chance she gets on the floor.
“She’s done a good job of executing when she’s in the matches,” Turco said. “Like the rest of the team, she’s coming in every Monday and looking to get better.”
The unique structure of this team has allowed several young players the opportunity to grow and develop as leaders. Chew is no exception, as her ability to lead the girls has grown alongside her ability on the floor.
Chew believes that the young core of this team has provided her an opportunity to become a better overall player and leader.
“I feel I’ve grown a lot,” Chew said. “It’s only been a year’s difference, but I feel like a whole different player … the college level is so much more intense, and that’s really transformed me as a player.”
However, this Salisbury squad also has a few seniors that provide strong experience and leadership to the team. Among these, libero Hailey Dougherty stands out.
Dougherty has been a leader for the Salisbury volleyball team since her sophomore year. She has accumulated 1,545 digs in her career, averaging 4.30 digs per set.
The volleyball team had a similar situation in Dougherty’s sophomore year, with a strong group of upperclassmen leaving and young players left to fill the shoes of those before them. Dougherty found herself as a leader in just her sophomore year, not unlike the position Chew is in this season.
Dougherty said that being in this position has led to her development into a top player in Division III volleyball.
“We had really strong leaders my freshman year, and I was put into that leadership role in my sophomore year after that class graduated,” Dougherty said. “It helped me become a leader really quick and maintain that throughout all four years here.”
Dougherty’s leadership has trickled through the roster, leading to younger players like Chew growing into larger roles in just their sophomore seasons.
Turco said that Dougherty is a significant source of energy for the team when it prepares on game day.
“Hailey’s definitely grown as a leader, and she’s always been an extreme competitor,” Turco said. “I think she’s done a good job with leading by example … she’s doing a really good job of teaching this young team with 12 underclassmen how to be a good leader.”
Chew and Dougherty secured two consecutive Capital Athletic Conference Players of the Week Awards for the weeks of Sept. 3 and Sept. 9. Chew currently leads the CAC in kills and kills per set, while Dougherty leads the CAC in digs and digs per set.
Turco said that while these individual awards are celebrated, they reflect more so on the performance of the team overall.
“We take pride when players get recognized after tournaments, but that’s not why we’re playing,” Turco said. “This is a team game, and without good passing, without good setting, without good blocking, they don’t get that recognition.”
Chew has seen two teams with strong senior leadership in her time with the Sea Gulls, despite having few seniors on both squads.
Through this, Chew said she has developed her ability to lead by example rather than lead through words.
“Playing under Hailey and the other upperclassmen from last year, they taught us how to be leaders on the floor, even as freshmen,” Chew said. “Having their leadership and playing under them has really helped me coming in this year.”
The Sea Gulls opened the season with eight straight victories and currently hold an 11-3 overall record heading into conference play.
While Dougherty hopes to continue her individual success, her primary focus is with the success of the team and making the most of her final year as a Sea Gull.
“Definitely want to win conference,” Dougherty said. “Then [the NCAA Tournament], that’s our larger goal. Whether that’s through the conference or getting an at-large bid, we want to be in it.”
By NICK LEWIS
Featured photos: Brendan Link images.