DOBSON — The South Stokes volleyball team was disappointed in itself when the team hosted Surry Central three weeks ago.
The Lady Sauras were determined to put forth a better accounting of themselves when the teams rematched in Dobson on Tuesday evening.
“We pushed this time. The last time we played (Surry Central), we mentally weren’t all the way there, and this time we came out guns blazing and ready to push,” South Stokes coach Ashley Hicks said of her team’s 25-22, 25-8, 25-21 win.
Surry Central (4-13, 3-4 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) came in having won three of its last six matches, starting with the straight-set win over the Lady Sauras back on Sept. 15. The Lady Eagles led for much of the first and third sets on Tuesday, but faded badly at the end of both of them.
South Stokes, which struggled through its first run through the WPAC, has shown significant improvement in the last two weeks. After snapping a four-match skid with a non-conference win at Bishop McGuinness back on Sept. 26, the Lady Sauras swept a doubleheader from Carver, took a set from league power Forbush, and then lost at West Stokes in five sets, falling by four points in set five after rallying from down 2-0. South, now 11-9 overall and 3-6 in league play, needs a strong finish to extend their year past the end of the regular season. The first step in that path was to win on Tuesday.
“We’ve struggled a little bit this season,” said Hicks. “This is a great way to turn things around and push on to the end.”
Things started out well for Surry Central. After the Lady Sauras won the first point, the Lady Eagles scored the next four on Sarah Ford’s serve and responded every time that the visitors got close. However, Central was unable to pull away. They reached their high-water mark when Tara Blevins angled a shot across the net for a point and then Ema Coe hit a winner to make it 15-10. Hicks called a time-out at this juncture, and South gained a side-out on the next point.
Momentum began to switch toward the visitors when Madelyn McKinney made the kill to end a long rally and cut the lead to 18-16. South Stokes pulled within one point twice, but couldn’t tie it until Lilly Weaver put one away to make it 20-all. Central’s Taylor Coe smashed an overset moments later to give her team the lead back at 22-21, but then she served it into the net, and the Lady Sauras won the rest of the points for a 25-22 set one victory.
The Lady Eagles seemed dispirited by how the opening set had ended, and set two was no contest. South Stokes won the first three points of the match, Central the next two, and then the Lady Sauras took complete control. After two errors staked South to a 5-2 lead, Maggie Joyce smashed one over to make it 6-2. When the visitors won the next point as well, Surry Central coach Carrie Bruce called timeout. However, it made little difference, because junior libero Mary Weaver served three consecutive aces coming out of the break.
Central crawled back to within 11-5 when Jenna Simpson scored by converting a dump shot off an overset, but more strong serving, this time by McKinney, set the pace as the Lady Sauras cruised to a 25-8 win.
South Stokes had served the ball poorly early in set one, but the team’s service game became increasingly dominant as the match went on.
“It normally takes us a little bit to catch on with serving,” said Hicks. “We’re normally a good serving team; we know where to find holes. It just took us a while tonight.”
The Lady Eagles settled down in set three and started off strong, with Brooke Snow serving an ace for an early 5-2 lead. Both Coes made big kills early on, and then Karson Norman served an ace of her own to give Central its biggest lead at 9-4. It was 13-9 when Hicks called time, and again her team responded, cutting the lead to one. Snow scored for the home team to put them in front 14-12, and then Taylor Coe and Joyce went head-to-head on two straight points. The Central junior won the first one for a 15-12 lead in a direct confrontation above the net, but then South’s senior captain answered back with a dump shot on the next point that landed in front of Coe. From there, the Lady Sauras kept the run going until they had taken a 16-15 lead. Snow scored off a block to tie it for Central, and then the Lady Eagles went back in front, eventually taking a 20-18 lead on another Norman ace. McKinney stopped the run with a kill of her own, and South Stokes ran off five straight, including another McKinney kill on a cross-net shot, before Central got a side-out out of a timeout. However, the Lady Eagles served it into the net, and Mary Weaver served another ace on match point.
Surry Central returns to action on Thursday evening at North Surry.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.