With five wins in five tries so far this season, there’s not much doubt that North Surry once again has one of the area’s best volleyball teams.
However, head coach Shane Slate is still waiting to see the Lady Hounds’ best game on a more consistent basis.
North Surry improved to 5-0 on the season Thursday evening in a match that the Lady Hounds won in straight sets, but just as easily could have trailed two sets to one after playing all three. Set one went into extra points before North prevailed by two, and in the third set, they trailed nearly the entire set before coming on strong at the end, after an injury to one of the Lady Rams’ players.
In between, the Lady Hounds routed their guests 25-9 in set two.
“We’re still on the rollercoaster,” said Slate after his team’s 27-25, 25-9, 25-22 victory. “Slow start first set, and then we got geared up and started playing really well. But we just tuned out and in that third set, we went back to playing like we had in the first set.
“We got to get over that, our seniors in particular. They’ve played enough volleyball that we shouldn’t be this up and down.”
Starmount, whose 3-1 record coming in was blemished only by a loss to unbeaten 4A Davie County, wasn’t interested in rolling over for North Surry. The Lady Rams matched their hosts point for point in that first set. At 21-20, North scored two straight and appeared to have the set in hand, but Starmount staved off double set point at 24-22 to tie the score, then saved another one at 25-24. Finally, Camille Cartwright put a ball away to make it 26-25 in the Lady Hounds’ favor and then took a set from Dixie Fulk on the fourth set point and finished it to end the set.
In set two, North Surry looked like a powerhouse team. It was once again Cartwright on center stage in the early going, as the Lady Hounds ran off 11 straight points with her serving, going from 2-3 to 13-3. In this spree, she served two aces, while Mikaela Johnson delivered three crushing kills and Martha Holt scored off a dink shot. The run didn’t end until Cartwright served a ball long, but Johnson got possession right back by smashing another ball across the net. From there, it was all academic, and Starmount never got back into the set.
“We had an advantage at the net with multiple hitters and we were able to get the ball to them and take care of it,” said Slate.
The Lady Rams battled back in set three. Cambria Bowen served an ace to put Starmount in front 6-4, and for the next several minutes, the teams traded wins on long rallies. Although physically overmatched against North Surry six-footers Johnson and Holt, Lady Ram hitters Kayla Vanhoy, Maggie Freed and Taylor Wood did their best to stand in against them. At one point, Vanhoy put a ball away from deep in her own end, and Starmount pushed the lead to 13-9 after Daniela Murguia scored a kill on an on-two play. When Freed won a long rally a few minutes later, the Lady Rams led 15-10.
Of course, North Surry came back. The Lady Hounds reeled off the next five points. Paige Sizemore had a kill in the run, and Emma Haynes took two straight sets from Fulk for kills to tie the set at 15. Starmount senior Chloe Ford responded with a kill and then a block to keep her team on top. Vanhoy scored to give her team a 20-18 edge before Johnson stepped up and put a ball past a Lady Ram to make it a one-point set.
Then Karlie Marion delivered a serve that no one on Starmount could handle. Bowen desperately tried to run the ball down after a receive error and fell hard to the floor. The set was tied at 20, but there was a delay of several minutes before the Lady Rams’ junior libero was able to get up under her own power. After the break, North regained the lead by winning the next two points. Vanhoy struck from near the back line for a point, and Freed saved match point at 24-21, but that was as close as Starmount got. Holt scored a kill on the next rally to end the match.
Slate was right to speak well of his hitters. Johnson scored 11 kills with just one error, and Holt had seven with no miscues at all. Cartwright scored eight kills but had five errors. Three Lady Hounds led the defensive effort, led by Evann Shelnutt with 21 digs. Sizemore added 18 and Holt 11. Dixie Fulk’s 29 assists accounted for all but two of North’s total; Holt had the other two.
Starmount is off until Tuesday, when the Lady Rams pay a visit to 4A West Forsyth. North Surry returns to action Monday at North Wilkes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.