Mount Airy’s imposing front line was as good as advertised in the Lady Bears’ season-opening victory over Elkin on Monday evening.
But what head coach Chuck Morris was most impressed with wasn’t the likes of Sadie Brooks, Madeline Mayfield and Arry Ward playing bombs away against the scrappy Lady Elks. It was the work of freshmen Avery Cox and Brooke Lankford that made the bombing away possible.
“I was really pleased with the job our two freshmen setters did. Our two setters had 36 assists between them,” said Morris. “We averaged 12 assists a set, which is very good for a 6-2 offense.”
The two freshmen were the biggest wild cards coming into the Lady Bears’ season opener, in which Elkin repeatedly challenged Mount Airy, but could never wrest momentum away from the home team in a 25-16, 25-20, 25-20 victory for the hosts.
“We played fairly well as a team, had some great team unity out there, and this was a good way to start the season,” said Morris.
All three sets were close until the Lady Bears made a run nearly the midpoint of the action and then held the Lady Elks at bay the rest of the way. In set one, Mount Airy led just 8-6 before running off 10 straight points as the team’s power game found a rhythm. Elkin outside hitter Jessica Eldridge managed to score a few points of her own to close the gap, but the Lady Elks never got closer than six.
Brooks had three consecutive service aces early in set two before the Elks’ Katherine Jennings halted the run with a kill of her own. Elkin closed to 8-5 when Savannah Abbey scored a block against Brooks and Kenley Jackson served and ace, and kept up the strong play to close the deficit to 11-10 on Leah Goodwin’s serve. However, Brooks wasn’t having any of it. She took a set from Cox and crushed it just inside the back line, then smashed one off an Elkin front-line player to give her team some breathing room. The Elks fought back yet again, but Ward crushed an over-hit for a kill to make it 18-15 and then followed with another kill. At 22-19, back to back kills by Brooks earned a match point, which came soon after.
In the third set, the Lady Elks reeled off four straight points to take a 6-5 lead, and proceeded to take the lead on each of the next five exchanges, the last time at 10-9, as Ward and Mayfield battled Jennings and Catie Beth Brown up front. Finally, Mount Airy regained the lead at 11-10 on a kill by Brooks, but Elkin responded, and appeared to have tied the set at 13 when Jennings nailed an over-hit for what appeared to be an easy kill. However, one of the officials called a violation on the play, and instead of a 13-all tie, it was 15-12 Mount Airy after Brooks served an ace.
The Lady Elks never pulled even again. Courtney Holbrook got them back within 15-14 on a service ace, but the next four points were scored by the hosts. From there, Mount Airy led by at least three points the rest of the way.
The Lady Bears will return to action on Thursday at home against North Wilkes, while Elkin will host Bishop McGuinness that evening.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.