Freshman Blair Pausic has emerged as Salisbury’s starting setter through the month of October, recording at least 10 assists in each of her first six starts.
In half of her starts, multiple Sea Gulls finished the match with 10 or more kills. Pausic credits her teammates' helpfulness for her success so far as Salisbury’s starting setter.
“The team’s been really, really helpful. They’ve been giving me great passes, and our hitters are putting it down, so they’re making it really easy for me to do my job,” Pausic said.
Pausic’s consistent play hasn’t gone unnoticed by her teammates, as senior defensive specialist/libero Hailey Dougherty has seen Pausic’s improvement over her freshman season.
Dougherty said that the team has asked many freshmen to step up into leadership roles this season, and Pausic is one that has handled it well.
“She’s really stepped up as a freshman coming in here,” Dougherty said. ‘We had to ask them to be leaders really quick with so many underclassmen, and she’s really stepped up, and I’m proud of her.”
Pausic would continue her consistent play at setter in Salisbury’s 3-2 victory over St. Mary’s College, recording a game-high 56 assists. Pausic nearly doubled her total number of assists from Salisbury’s first meeting against the Seahawks on Oct. 5, which was her second collegiate start.
The Sea Gulls entered Saturday’s contest against the Seahawks on a three-game losing streak. Salisbury won the first meeting between these two teams at St. Mary’s in straight sets.
The Seahawks also entered Maggs Physical Activities Center looking to end a three-game losing streak and win their first conference matchup of the season.
The Sea Gull players chose to make Saturday’s contest an Alzheimer’s awareness game, as the disease impacted members of the team, including Dougherty. This cause was important to the team, and the members were glad that they were able to support this cause.
“Usually we do ‘Dig Pink’ like a lot of the other teams here, but this year we wanted to switch it up and play for a cause that really meant something to us,” Dougherty said. “A lot of our grandparents have Alzheimer’s, so it was an easy choice to support a great cause.”
The first set of the contest saw Salisbury and St. Mary’s trade several points, with the Seahawks not allowing Salisbury to gain a lead larger than three points throughout the set. Tied at 24-24, St. Mary’s scored on three of the next four serves and won the set 27-25 on a Chanel Lucas kill.
The Sea Gulls took a 3-1 lead to open up the second set, a lead they would not relinquish. Salisbury claimed the second set 25-17 with a kill from freshman middle blocker Jenna Feinauer.
Salisbury found similar success in the third set, jumping out to a 5-0 lead before eventually winning the set 25-15. The Seahawks went on to win set four by a 25-22 score to force a fifth set.
This was Salisbury’s third match in its past five to go to five sets, with Salisbury going 1-1 during that span. The Sea Gulls have played eight five-setters on the year, winning five of them.
Salisbury started out the fifth set on a 4-0 run before the Seahawks came back and took a 6-5 lead. Trailing 10-7 later in the set, Salisbury came back to take a 12-11 lead, eventually winning the set 15-13 on a Seahawk attack error.
Dougherty was proud of her teammates for being able to get the win after falling to Arcadia University, Stevenson University and Stockton University in five sets earlier in the season.
“It feels really good to grind out a fifth set and come away with the win,” Dougherty said. “We’ve had a couple of fifth-set losses this season, and I’m really proud of [my teammates] for sticking to what we do best and hitting the shots and to be in position coming away with that fifth-set win.”
Head coach Justin Turco was also pleased with the way his players performed down the stretch.
Turco said the team showed a lot of fight in the match against the Seahawks.
“I thought that we showed some strengths that we were working on,” Turco said. “We’ve lost a decent amount of close matches, so it was good to see us pull one out.”
Seniors Dougherty and outside hitter Carley Cleland finished a perfect 5-0 against St. Mary’s in the regular season throughout their SU careers.
Salisbury heads to York College on Wednesday to take on the Spartans for its second meeting this season. The Gulls are after the regular season sweep of their CAC opponent after knocking off the Spartans in five sets on Oct. 9.
Dougherty believes the Sea Gulls will be able to ride this momentum into their next game.
“Riding this momentum is going to be huge for our next game at York. We’re going to have to work a little bit harder obviously,” Dougherty said. “We made a couple errors in those sets there, but I feel like we’ll have good momentum, and we’ll clean up the stuff we need to going into York.”
By BRANDON STARK
Featured photo: Emma Reider image.