The East Surry volleyball team saw its winning streak halted at 10 on Saturday afternoon during the team’s second match of the Rivals United showcase at Mount Airy High School.
Coach Caleb Gilley couldn’t have been prouder of them.
“We definitely competed well,” the coach said following his team’s 25-22, 23-25, 25-16, 23-25, 16-14 loss to county rival North Surry. “We made plays when we needed to make plays. North Surry is a great blocking team, a great defensive team, and for us to be right there with them was great.”
The Lady Cardinals (18-4 overall) had beaten Surry Central in the first match of the day-long event, which raises money to help fight cancer and assist those battling it. The victory was the 10th in a row for the state’s 10th-ranked 1A team, which hadn’t lost since a 3-2 setback at North Stokes on the first day of September.
Few gave them any shot at making it 11. North Surry had pummeled East in its own gym back on Aug. 23, and the Lady Greyhounds, the state’s fifth-ranked 2A team, haven’t lost to a team below 4A all season long.
“Both teams are significantly better (than they were in August),” said North Surry coach Shane Slate, who said that his team wasn’t always focused on what it needed to be doing against the Lady Cardinals. “Unfortunately, we spent too much time standing around, and it cost us, because they didn’t stand around. They were putting shots in corners and in spots, and that gets you in trouble.”
Despite making some mistakes defensively, North Surry kept its streak against non-4a teams alive, and ended East Surry’s winning streak. But if the Lady Cardinals perform at this level going forward, the potential for a very long playoff run is there.
“We’re not the biggest of teams. The size that we do have is kind of young,” said Gilley. “They’re a big team and they’re a physical team, but we found ways to compete with them to even it out.”
Although there is no chance of the two teams meeting in postseason play since they play at different classifications, the latter half of the match was contested as if something more than local bragging rights were at stake. North won set three easily, 25-16, and looked to put a quick end to things in set four. The Lady Hounds dominated the early going and led 14-7 when the Lady Cardinals mounted a stunning rally.
East Surry won seven of the next eight points in the match, mostly on the serve of Allie Bruner, before Kendall Beck put a ball away to tie the set at 15. A bad serve gave North the lead back, but the Lady Cardinals had the momentum now and kept rolling. Cameron Sloop made a kill to tie the score again, and then Bethany Clayton caught the Lady Hounds napping on an on-two play to put East in front. For the next few minutes, Sloop and Sarah Marion slugged it out with North’s Mikaela Johnson and Paige Sizemore at the net. North tied the score at 20 on a Kaylee Freed service ace and Gilley called for time.
Coming out of the break, North hit a kill attempt long and then Bruner served an ace for the Lady Cardinals. Whitney Hall scored a kill for the Lady Hounds, but then Clayton went on-two against Johnson, who couldn’t handle it. Beck made a kill and then North Surry couldn’t handle a ball after its dig attempt hit the ceiling on set point.
Marion opened the fifth set with a block, and East Surry led for the first time in the match. The Lady Cardinals won three of the first four points, but the Lady Hounds bounced back and took a 5-4 lead on a spike shot from Johnson. East won five of the next six, using creative shots from Sloop and power from Marion to lead 9-6. Moments later, another on-two kill from Clayton made it to 10-7, and East Surry was just five points away from victory.
Back came the Lady Hounds. Hall and then Johnson made kills as North tied the score at 10. Beck put one off Johnson, one number 11 off the other for an 11-10 Lady Cardinal lead. Hall answered for the Lady Hounds and then Johnson put them in front 12-11. Beck slammed one home off a perfect set from Clayton and then an error on North put East on top 13-12. North won the next two, reaching match point, and then Sloop tied it at 14 on a dump shot.
North Surry then won the final two points of the match, improving its record to 15-4 on the season. They later defeated Mount Airy in the nightcap and left Bear country with a 16-4 overall record.
The first two sets of the match could have gone either way. The tone was set early, as North tried to overpower the shorter Lady Cardinals, but East Surry countered with strong passing and defense. The Lady Hounds led by as many as six in the first set, but their foes chipped the lead down to two points in the endgame. However, North held on and won set one 25-22 on a kill by Freed.
In set two, North used power hitting from Johnson and Sizemore to lead 7-4, but the Lady Cardinals battled back, taking a 14-13 lead. At 15-all, Clayton again caught the Lady Hounds napping with an on-two play, and East never trailed again. North did tie it twice, but Clayton scored the final two points of the set, first on a perfectly-placed shot to the back right corner of the court, and then after a point for North, she made an identical shot to the back left corner for the winner.
Three members of the North Surry team reached double figures in kills, led by Hall with 16. Sizemore added 15 and Johnson 13. Dixie Fulk had a whopping 51 assists for the Lady Hounds, and North had 116 digs as a team, led by Maggie Hawks with 42. Sizemore added 31 and Hall was credited with 17, to go along with five aces.
Clayton had a monster game for the Lady Cardinals. Along with 37 assists, the 5’10” junior, although listed as a setter for the match, also led her team with 15 kills, committing just one hitting error in the process, and had 13 digs. Beck added 10 kills, Marion nine, with Sloop and Alyssa Jessup earning six each. Sloop led five East Surry players with double-digit digs, getting 26. Morgan Smith had 22, Sloop 21, and Bruner 14. East also had 20 blocks, led by Beck with six, Sloop with four, and Clayton with three.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.