On Fire

If you are not sure what a team on a hot streak looks like, stop your search at the BSC Volleyball team. After starting 5-5, your lady Panthers have been on fire. Jeneva Salter and company have amounted a 16-game win streak, not losing a match since mid-September. In a span of seven days, they defeated Thomas Moore (No. 5), Emory (No. 8), and Berry (No. 18). These wins solidified their No. 3 ranking in the Southern Region and carried the team to the Emory National Invitational Championship. The squad finished the regular season 26-5 and generated an 85.7% conference win percentage. They head into the conference championship as a major threat. But why are they so good? Who is responsible for their success? How far can this team go? Let’s rewind.

On June 1, 2017, Athletic Director Kendall Waters and staff appointed Haven O’Quinn as the new Women’s Volleyball Head Coach. Before BSC, O’Quinn played at Troy State University, where she remains in the top five for career digs and kills to this day. As a coach, O’Quinn led Mountain Brook High School to three consecutive AHSAA 7A State Championships (2014-2016), creating a college volleyball recruiting powerhouse in the process. Once the BSC Head Coach position opened, staff saw O’Quinn as a great fit. And she was. In her first season, Coach O guided the squad to a 20-9 record, a SAA Conference Championship appearance, and a NCAA tournament bid. Veteran players like Marjorie Ward, Julia Denby, and Caroline Johnson held vital leadership roles for the 2017 season, but it felt like something was missing.

During the 2016 season, Salter, the team’s outside hitter, faced a plethora of injuries, including one to her knee. Salter tore her meniscus twice while playing for Bob Jones High School, and, although she proved dominant at the collegiate level, her knee remained an issue. After months of discussion, Salter was sidelined for the 2017 season due to nagging knee problems. Why is this significant? Salter isn’t just the best scorer on the team, she is one of the best in the country. In her first year, she led the conference with 446 kills, earned All-SAA First Team honors, and gained national attention from an AVCA All-American Honorable Mention. In addition, she accrued awards liked SAA Newcomer of the Year and BSC Female Newcomer of the Year. Salter’s unprecedented first season helped the Panthers to an SAA Conference Championship and NCCA tournament win. She followed her freshman campaign with another First-Team All SAA honor and earned an All-Region nod. During the 2017 season, many raised the question: Where would the team be if Salter was healthy?

This season, O’Quinn and the Lady Panthers have their all-star. Three Athlete of the Week honors and another All-SAA First Team recognition later, Salter is back to her normal self. But why has the team been so successful?

“We all really like each other,” says Salter. “Something just clicked. We play for each other and not ourselves. I think that’s the reason behind our recent success.”

The chemistry shows. Salter has career numbers but BSC’s six other All-Conference players give this team the depth they need to make an NCAA tournament run. Without the veteran leadership from Ward, Denby, and Johnson, it’d be hard to imagine this 16-game win streak, let alone a potential NCAA Tournament appearance. This team has beaten the best, devised impressive comebacks, and amounted one of the best winning streaks in school history. They are not done yet.

Image from Southron 1916.