PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry volleyball continued its dominance over Atkins this season with a 3-0 sweep in the first round of the Northwest Conference Tournament on Monday.
The Lady Cardinals came away with a 25-4, 25-5 and 25-4 straight-set victory against the Camels.
This quarterfinal victory follows an impressive 3-0 sweep over regular-season champion Mount Airy. At 14-10 on the year, coach Caleb Gilley knows how important it is for a team to play its best volleyball at the end of the season.
“I hope that we are peaking at the right time,” Gilley said. “We’re cleaning some stuff up that just wasn’t clean most of the season. It’s a good sign, because we know what is at stake in this tournament.”
If the Cardinals roll through and win the tournament, they will clinch the conference’s second seed for the state playoffs and host a first-round match.
East Surry took its first step towards a home playoff match on Monday. The combination of prolific serving and a shaky Atkins back row allowed the Cardinals to cruise to victory.
In the first set, East Surry’s Hayley Whittaker recorded 10 of her 12 aces in a 16-point run that stretched the Cardinals’ lead to 19-1. An ace from Cameron Sloop finished the first set.
Alyssa Jessup shined early in the second set and registered three kills within East Surry’s first five points, and Bethany Clayton used six aces during an eight-point run to stretch East Surry’s lead to 24-4. Sydney Marion finished the set off with one of her reliable middle of the net kills. Marion and Jessup tied for a team-high six kills on Monday.
The final set was all about Sarah Marion’s serve. The sophomore outside hitter toed the line with her team leading 6-4, and East Surry scored the final 19 points of the match on Marion’s serve for the 25-4 win. She recorded 15 aces during the run.
Next up for East Surry is a semifinal date with Bishop McGuinness, the only conference foe to sweep the Cardinals this season.
“Bishop just doesn’t make very many mistakes. We don’t match up very well with them,” Gilley said. “They’re very good defensively and they put us in a lot of long rallies, and that’s something that goes in their favor.”
If East Surry wants to counter the Bishop defense, setter Bethany Clayton is going to need to put her attackers in good position on Tuesday. The Cardinals will also look to keep the momentum from Monday’s explosive serving performance going against the Villains.
“We’re going to try to terminate balls early,” Gilley said. “But it’s also going to be our serving. Hopefully, we can take them out of system early in the point.”
The rest of the conference tournament will be played at Atkins High School. East Surry gets under way against Bishop McGuinness at 5 p.m., followed immediately by top-seeded Mount Airy’s match against either Walkertown or Winston-Salem Prep.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16