The Saxons showed that they are the best volleyball team in Salem Thursday evening.
The rest of the Greater Valley Conference awaits.
South Salem High School’s volleyball team defeated North Salem 25-7, 23-25, 25-12, 25-8 then swept Sprague 25-14, 25-16, 25-13 to improve to 4-0 in the GVC.
But the Saxons know the league season will get tougher.
“Right now this is the start, for sure,” South Salem coach Matt Leichty said. “There’s a long ways to go in the season. The new teams added, we didn’t add easy teams in this league. The addition of West Albany and McMinnville are both premier teams that we have to pay attention to.
“I think for us so much of it’s just going to come down to can we play the way that we play against those guys, and if we do we’re going to give ourselves opportunities to win matches.”
Getting past Sprague was an impressive accomplishment for South Salem.
The Olympians won the Central Valley Conference championship the prior three years and made the state tournament two of those seasons.
That the Saxons swept the dominant team in town speaks volumes about where South Salem is this season.
“It was a great hurdle to get over,” said junior middle hitter Simone Leaks, who had three blocks. “We’re glad we accomplished that, but we still have a lot of work to do because we have a lot of tough games to play.”
In each match South Salem built up big leads mid-way through the match – 19-7 in the first, 18-9 in the second and 18-10 in the third – withstood Sprague comebacks to win each.
Tori O’Connor had eight kills and four aces in the match, Erin McNally had eight kills and three blocks, Maddy Von Flue had 16 digs and Rishel Samson had 23 assists.
South Salem’s serving was especially effective in the match.
The Saxons racked up six aces in the first game and were solid serving the entire match.
“We spend a lot of time working on serving,” Leichty said. “It’s kids that have been working with us for a long time that are continuing to improve and getting better.
“I feel like we’ve developed an attitude at South now where we’ve got kids, they believe that South is a volleyball school. If you play volleyball at South, you’re playing volleyball for a good program. They’re playing with heart and they’re playing hard all night long. It’s great to see.”
When North Salem beat South Salem 25-23 in the second game of their match, it was the first game the Saxons had lost this season.
The Vikings were keyed in the game to big runs with Laura Gross’ serving, and the sophomore outside hitter recorded three aces and five kills in the match.
But South Salem had some big numbers in the match as McNally had a staggering nine aces and two blocks and Alison Brown had eight kills.
“They do have that fire, it’s just there’s always a mental block when you come off a season where you lose every league game,” North Salem coach Sara Stringer said. “I think they’re really trying to push through that, and we’re trying to help the younger kids move at the speed of this level.”
Sprague (1-2 GVC, 2-4 overall) swept North Salem (0-4 GVC) 25-15, 25-7, 25-13 in the first match of the three-way match.
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Sprague d. North Salem 3-0
Game scores: 25-15, 25-7, 25-13
Kills- Wall (NS) 3; Digs-Venegas (NS) 5 ; Assists- Stevens (NS) 5; Aces- Stevens (NS) 2.
South Salem d. North Salem 3-1
Game scores: 25-7, 23-25, 25-12, 25-8
Kills- Brown (SS) 8, Gross (NS) 5; Digs- VonFlue (SS) 12, Thompson (NS) 7; Blocks- McNally (SS) 2, Christensen (SS) 2; Assists- Simson (SS) 20, Stevens (NS) 5; Aces- McNally (SS) 9, Gross (NS) 3.
South Salem d. Sprague 3-0
Game scores: 25-14, 25-16, 25-13
Kills- T. O’Connor (SS) 8, McNally (SS) 8; Digs- Von Flue (SS) 16; Blocks- McNally (SS) 3, Leaks (SS) 3; Assists- Simson (SS) 23; Aces- T. O’Connor (SS) 4.