JANESVILLE

Some good friends finish each other’s sentences.

Others know what each is thinking without any words being spoken.

The connection between Janesville Craig High volleyball players Taylor Salmon and Amanda Carlson falls somewhere between the two.

“Most of the time I just hear words coming out of her mouth. She doesn’t say the right things,” said Salmon, a senior setter. “She’ll call out ‘Two!’ and a two is kind of a short (set). But she’s been playing outside more … so it’s not a two but that’s where she’s at.”

“I just kind of yell something out so she can set it to me,” Carlson added with a laugh.

Whatever Salmon and Carlson are saying, it’s working.

The two are rewriting the Craig volleyball record books as the Cougars near their first tough stretch in the Big Eight Conference schedule. They host unbeaten Verona on Thursday night and Sun Prairie the following Tuesday.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Carlson said of Craig’s run, which really started with the Cougars winning the Big Eight Conference tournament title near the end of last season.

“It’s exciting to have a good team, and we all get along really well,” Salmon said. “All of our passes are super good this year, which obviously helps me set.”

Salmon has been part of the varsity roster since her freshman year, when she was the backup setter. She took over as a starter when she was a sophomore and was a second-team all-Big Eight selection. A year ago she was a first-teamer and set both the program’s single-season and career assist records—totals she continues to add to as a senior. Following Saturday’s tournament, Salmon was up to 2,830 career assists. 

“She sees the court really well and usually sets it to the right hitter or puts it over on two if she sees an opening,” Craig coach Blake Budrow said. “Just very smart.”

Salmon said she does her best to see opposing blockers and to get a feel for where her teammates are located so she can set to the best spot at any particular moment.

Carlson, a two-time first-team all-Big Eight selection, has continued to add to her arsenal all four years on varsity. She’s evolved from a front-row hitter to never leaving the floor as a six-rotation player.

In Thursday’s sweep of visiting Janesville Parker, Carlson became the program’s all-time leader in kills (1,365). 

“She’s gotten better every year, and this year her decision-making is great,” Budrow said. “She’ll hit the ball hard a couple times and then come back with a little roll shot or a tip, or will cut it cross court or go line. She understands it’s not just power, it’s finesse.”

Carlson and Salmon said they have bonded through athletics since they first started playing club volleyball together in seventh grade.

They play for Rock Volleyball Club during the winter months. In the spring, they head to the softball field. Carlson was honorable mention all-conference last season as a second baseman who scored a team-best 22 runs for Craig. Salmon, an honorable mention pick as a sophomore, plays first base.

When not playing sports, Carlson and Salmon said you can likely find them hanging out, watching movies or attending other sporting events.

Budrow said Craig’s seniors have set the tone at the start of the season.

“Those two, along with Skylar Flood and Lily Stockheimer, they’ve been with us for three or four years,” Budrow said. “I think this is the most vocal we’ve ever been as a team on the court. Everyone’s talking.”

And even when they might not be saying all the right words, the Cougars are making it work.

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