PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry and Surry Central battled for five sets before the Lady Cardinals finally prevailed 3-2 Wednesday.
In a back-and-forth volleyball match, only two points separated the teams through four games. In a 2-2 tie, the Lady Eagles had scored 94 points to the Cards’ 92 points.
Then the Cards pulled away from a 3-3 tie to take the fifth set 15-5.
Players for both teams wore blue ribbons in their hair in honor of Jacob Pettitt, an East Surry student badly injured in a car wreck Tuesday night. The teams came together at the net for a moment of silence before beginning the match.
The Cards’ rallying cry after every set and timeout was “Play for Jacob.”
East Coach Caleb Gilley gave a huge thanks to Central for showing good sportsmanship and joining his squad for that quick prayer before the game began.
Central Coach Carrie Hutchens said she taught him when she was teaching at Pilot Mountain Middle and knows what a good kid he is. She was proud that she and her girls were able to take part in honoring him.
East Surry was missing two starters Wednesday. Setter Olivia Sheets has yet to play this season because of a leg injury, and big server Kristel Hicinbothem was unable to attend the match.
“We were definitely missing Kristel, especially her serve,” said Gilley. Still, he said Hayley Whitaker did a very good job stepping in for her, moving up from JV.
In the first set, the teams were tied at one, two and three before the Cards jumped out to an 8-3 lead. The lead reached 11-4 before Central called a timeout.
The Eagles clawed back to 13-12 and kept it close until finally tying the set at 17-all.
The Cards led 21-19 and then 23-22, but the Eagles scored the final three points for a 25-23 win.
The Cards repaid the favor in the next two games, coming from behind late in the second and third frames for wins.
Central took an 8-4 lead, drawing a timeout from Gilley. Then East closed to 12-11, as it was Hutchens’ turn to call time.
East used a 6-1 run to take a 17-14 lead, but then Central’s Cassidy Joyner spiked a kill and Kendra Johnson scored back-to-back aces for a tie game.
East went back ahead 19-17, but Central rallied for a 23-22 lead.
Central had a spike on the next play that Jessi Marion saved on the back row. The ball flew nearly to the ceiling, passing through the rafters without making contact to Central’s side. The Eagles couldn’t get the ball back over the net as the home crowd roared.
East would make the next point for a 24-23 lead, then Kacie Markle would send a kill down the left sideline, just on the line, to finish the 25-23 game.
In the third game, the two teams combined for eight ties by the time the score was 14-all.
The Eagles went up 18-16, but the Cards scored four straight points for a 20-18 lead.
After a timeout, the Eagles scored three points for a 21-20 lead, but didn’t score again. The Cards got the last five points for a 25-21 set. That gave the home team a 2-1 lead.
The Eagles didn’t give up and broke away from a 4-4 tie to build a big 22-10 lead. If the visitors could have finished the set quickly, Central would have had a big shift in momentum going into the final set.
However, East scored nine straight points behind Gabi Jessup’s serve to close to 22-19. Even though the Eagles won 25-19, the momentum seemed to have run out.
“Gabi was hitting her spots, and we found a little life,” said Gilley. “That picked us up and carried over to set five.”
From 3-3, the Cards finished the match on a 12-2 push, ending it with a kill from Marion.
“As a team we played well,” said Gilley. There were stretches where the girls didn’t do as well, but they stuck together and kept pushing until they broke through, he said.
Coming from behind in three straight games showed that the players have matured a lot, he said.
“We just have a tendency of letting one mistake happen one after another,” said Hutchens. “It doesn’t matter how many drills we run in practice … it is all in their mindset.”
The players have worked really hard on the court the past two days, but couldn’t finish the sets against the Cards, she said.
Still, she said she was very proud with the difference between this match and the previous loss to the Cards, where Central gave up 20 straight points.
The team just didn’t show up for that match, she said. This time, she said they didn’t quite bring their A game, but she’d definitely give them a B-plus.
“Hats off to Central,” said Gilley. “Kaitlin Kidd did a great job of setting. Joyner is always tough when she’s on; a couple of times she really put it down.
“Kendra (Johnson) does a phenomenal job on the back row,” he said. “Sometimes it took everything we had just to put a ball down against her.”
East’s Kacie Markle led all hitters with 25 kills. Jessup, Marion and Cheyenne Kota each had eight kills and Whitaker three.
Jessup added eight blocks, Marion seven, Sydney Mosley three and Kota two.
Mosley and Marion had 14 digs each, Markle 12, Whitaker six and Jesse Barr five.
Jessup was a perfect 24/24 serving and was able to take Central out of its offensive system.
Joyner led Central with 20 kills, Kelsey Taylor seven, McKenzie Danley five, Kristin Key four and Tori Blevins three.
Key had three stuff blocks, Taylor two and Joyne and Blevins one each.
Kidd had 36 assists and Holly Mason five.
Johnson had 17 digs, Joyner 10, Kidd seven and Mason five to lead the Eagles.
The Eagles had 100 serves and only missed eight times, noted Hutchens. And those eight misses were balanced by 10 aces, she added.
Johnson had five aces in 14 made serves, Joyner and Brooke Lewis two aces each.
Today, East Surry hosts Bishop McGuinness, while the Eagles are off until hosting Elkin on Monday.