PILOT MOUNTAIN — Volleyball is an indoor sport, but the forecast in the East Surry gym on Thursday evening still called for rain.
The Lady Cardinals rained dumps, tips, spikes and aces down on the Bishop McGuinness end of the court throughout their Northwest 1A Conference match, keeping their grip on first place with a 25-12, 25-13, 25-13 victory over the fourth-place Villains.
“We did a lot of really good things tonight,” said coach Caleb Gilley. “I thought we played really well.”
East Surry won its ninth consecutive match since a 3-2 defeat at the hands of league rival North Stokes on the first day of the month. The Lady Cardinals (16-3, 8-1 NW1A) have dropped just one set since then, and in their most recent match before facing Bishop, avenged their loss to North Stokes by pummeling them in a straight-set victory in which they allowed just 42 points. East entered the match as the state’s 10th-ranked 1A team, and certainly didn’t do anything on Thursday to refute that.
“I think that loss to North Stokes sparked us. We’ve been a different team in practice and in the games,” Gilley said. “They understand that they have to come to play every single night. The first time we played North Stokes, we made a bunch of really bad errors. We’ve cleaned it up since then.”
The match with Bishop (5-11, 4-4), although not totally one-sided, didn’t offer anything that East Surry coudln’t deal with. The first few points actually summed up what was to come. On the first point of the match, Bishop scored when the Lady Cardinals’ Bethany Clayton mishandled a well-placed tip shot at the net and her teammates couldn’t recover. With the score 1-0 Bishop, Clayton evened the score on the next point, making a perfect set that Maggie Holt smashed for a kill, and then Clayton scored the next one herself.
Bishop spent the entire evening making impressive plays and challenging East Surry, only to find their efforts bettered more often than not.
“There were several rallies where I thought we were the aggressor,” Gilley said. “We’ve worked hard on our block and it showed tonight.”
The Lady Cardinals took control of set one by going on a 10-2 run in the middle of it to lead 18-9. Highlights included aces by Kendall Beck and Sarah Marion, along with multiple kills from Maggie Holt. With the lead at 23-12, the teams battled on a very long rally in which both teams made improbable saves before Marion finally got the winner.
In set two, Bishop won three of the first four points and then had to deal with the serving of freshman libero Morgan Smith out of the time-out. Smith served back-to-back aces to put East on top 4-3, and they extended it to 7-3 before the Villains were able to regain serve. Bishop battled back, but Beck won serve back for East Surry twice in a row, the first time by smashing one off CeCi Kammire near midcourt, and then by beating Skylar Ahmuty at the net. At 14-9, Clayton won a key point on a rally where she spiked an over-set ball, only to see a Bishop player dig it and sent it back in her direction. She thumped it back across, and this time the Villains couldn’t handle it. The set eventually came down to her. Clayton stepped to the back line with East leading 18-13 and promptly served it out, scoring three aces in the process.
The Villains took an early lead once again in set three, and it was tied at 7 when the Lady Cardinals got a winner to go back in front and checked freshman Grace Kiser into the match for the first time. She served off seven in a row, including two aces, while Marion had two impressive kills. After the teams traded a few points, Allie Bruner served off five in a row before Bishop saved the first match point. Clayton ended it when she earned a block on the second one.
Clayton once again stuffed the stat sheet for the home team, with three kills, four aces, six blocks and seven digs to go along with her 38 assists. The junior is averaging more than 30 assists per match this season. Leading the attack were Holt (10 kills, four blocks), Beck (eight kills and four blocks) and Cameron Sloop (eight kills and nine digs). Marion had seven kills and four digs, Alyssa Jessup four kills, and Tara Beck two kills. Leading the defense were Smith, with 18 digs to go along with her three aces, and Elise Hayes with 11 digs.
East Surry will step away for a week before returning to action on Oct. 6 at Winston-Salem Prep. On Oct. 8, the Lady Cardinals will play Surry Central and North Surry in the annual Rivals United showcase, held this year at Mount Airy, and then will travel there again on Oct. 11 to face the Lady Bears (14-2, 7-1), in a showdown that will likely decide the 2016 NW1A regular-season champion.
“I think we’re playing good volleyball right now, but we’re not the only team playing good volleyball,” Gilley said. “Mount Airy is playing really good volleyball too.”
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.