SALEM-Salem volleyball coach Allie Winner calls sophomore Maria Shivers a momentum changer, a label that certainly rang true Thursday night against West Branch.
With eight kills and five blocks, Shivers helped the Quakers pull away late in each of the first two games on their way to a 25-19, 25-19, 25-17 sweep of the Warriors at Salem High School.
"We did a great job of working as a team tonight," Shivers said. "The first two games were up for grabs. We had to adjust to what they were doing and focus on our own jobs. That was the difference."
The first game was tied at 17 before the Quakers went on an 8-2 run to close things out. The Warriors came out strong in the second game and held an 18-14 lead before the Quakers took over and scored 11 of the final 12 points. The momentum swung in part due to the dominant blocking of Shivers.
"Maria played awesome tonight," Winner said. "She goes about things very quietly but has the ability to make big plays that get the crowd fired up and raise our energy level."
Salem easily finished off the Warriors in the third set, building a comfortable lead early. Camrin Costal had seven kills and two aces and Megan Lehwald had five digs for the Quakers (7-3).
"I don't think we played our best match tonight," Winner said. "We've been a little inconsistent. We struggled a little bit early, but after the second game I told our team we were winning in three and we did a good job taking control right away."
Lexington Pittman and Pavin Heath each had six points for the Warriors, while Sydney Townes had 11 kills. The Warriors fall to 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference. West Branch has played most of the season without Whitney Wallace and Amanda Linehart-two of its top players-who are both out with injuries.
"Amanda is a valuable blocker and Whitney is just a great all-around player who leaves a big hole in our back row defensively," said West Branch coach Penny DeShields. "We're getting better, but it's been a growing process for us, we have some seniors but we're still young in key spots."
With just one loss in the NBC, the Quakers are squarely in the mix for first place. After missing the second half of her freshman season with a dislocated thumb, Shivers is looking forward to making an impact for the stretch run.
"I was having a good season last year, but I feel a lot more confident and a lot stronger this season," Shivers said. "We have a lot of talent on this team and it's a lot of fun playing with them."
Salem won the jayvee game 25-16, 25-16. Kelly Barley had seven aces and six assists for the Quakers. Brittany Fish had four kills for West Branch.
The Quaker freshman beat West Branch 26-24, 24-26, 25-8 in the night's other action.
For the Quakers, Chloe Turnball had seven aces and Taylor Sienerth had four aces. Emily Null and Kylie Quinn had give kills a piece. Alexis Cresanto and Janna Berger also had three digs.
Salem travels to Austintown for a tri-match with Girard and Fitch on Saturday.
West Branch is at Minerva on Tuesday.