HUNTERSVILLE — North Surry’s defense of its state title came to an end Thursday with a five-set loss to Lake Norman Charter.
The Lady Greyhounds were riding a 25-match winning streak, but Lake Norman (20-2) had the highest winning percentage in the western regional.
The teams could have made for a nice regional final, but the brackets had them meet two rounds too soon.
“They are a really good team,” Coach Shane Slate said of the Lady Knights. And, he added, his squad didn’t play as well as it is capable.
“They do a good job of keeping the ball in play and not beating themselves,” he said of Lake Norman.
The Knights took the first set 25-18, but the Hounds came back to win the second 25-21.
Lake Norman took the third set 25-21, but North Surry had the best set for either team in the fourth frame, winning 25-12.
North carried some of that momentum over to the fifth set, taking a 6-3 lead, but the Knights outscored the Hounds 12-5 the rest of the way.
The match saw the return of outside hitter Taylor Hill, who has missed three weeks with a badly sprained ankle.
“Taylor played a little, but she’s still not 100 percent,” said Slate.
“Of course it is disappointing that we didn’t advance,” the coach said, “but we still had a heck of a year to be proud of.” The team continued its high level of play that these seniors have seen all four years.
The team struggled at the start, going 1-3 with setter Bailey Culler out with a broken hand. Then the team kept its 25-match winning streak going with Hill going down with her injury.
The girls also had to deal with the adversity of illnesses sidelining starters throughout the season, he noted. People stepped up and did good things for their team.
As for this loss, Slate said, “You hate it for your seniors even when you finish like we did last year winning it all.”
“I’m going to miss them next year; it won’t be the same without these six,” he said. This year has probably been the most fun he has had with any group he’s coached.
The Hounds finish the season 26-4, 59-6 the past two years and 123-11 over the four years of the six seniors. They are Bailey Culler, Alex Cooke, Abby Golding, Malaya Johnson, Erin March and Kendra McKeithen.
In the match, Johnson led the Hounds with 19 kills, March 11 and Culler seven. Culler also handed out 47 assists.
Johnson and March had seven blocks each.
North Surry was phenomenal at the service line, missing just two serves out of 101 in the match.
Morgan Hawks was a perfect 35/35 with an ace. Johnson and Golding were 14/14 each.
Golding led the defense with 24 digs, and Hawks added 22.
Slate and a few members of the volleyball team also will be on the basketball team, which is holding tryouts next Wednesday.
Forbush has been the Cinderella story of the playoffs with three straight upsets to reach the sectional final.
The Lady Falcons were just 11-10 in the regular season, then lost to West Stokes in the conference tournament.
Forbush beat Mount Pleasant and North Wilkes by 3-1 scores. Then in a rematch with the Lady Wildcats, the Falcons beat West Stokes 3-0 Thursday.
The Falcons have their work cut out for them against the conference champion Greyhounds.
The Hounds won both matches, and the second one wasn’t that close. North outscored Forbush 75-44 in three sets.
Forbush did win a set in the first match, but that came with Western Piedmont player of the year Malaya Johnson out sick.
On the other side of the brackets, Hendersonville, which knocked Surry Central out in the first round, advanced to the sectional final.
Hendersonville (21-5) swept Bunker Hill and hasn’t dropped a set in three matches.
Newton-Conover (20-7) will take on Hendersonville with the winner advancing to the West Regional final.