PILOT MOUNTAIN — Though it is the Vikings who are known for conquering their opponents throughout history, that role would be played by the East Surry Lady Cardinals on Tuesday. East Surry put the visiting Lady Vikings of North Surry away in three straight sets to stay undefeated against 1A opponents.
The Cards wasted little time gaining an advantage in a match in which they would never surrender the lead. North Stokes stayed with the Cardinals in rallies, but couldn’t find an answer for Bethany Clayton. Clayton led East Surry in both kills, 17, and attacks, 32. Clayton continued her dominance serving with two aces that led to a North Stokes timeout as the scoreboard read 9-3.
East Surry’s Sarah Marion added to the Cards’ lead with strong serving of her own. Miscommunication made a bad situation worse for the Vikings, who were unable to return serves. Many of North Stokes’ points in the first set came from East Surry errors. Up 19-10, East gave up five straight points to the Vikings. Just when it looked like the Vikings were mounting a comeback, the Cardinals scored six points in a row to win the first set 25-15.
North Stokes did better job of keeping the ball alive in the second set. The Vikings may have lacked an offensive threat, but were able to win points by keeping rallies long and forcing mistakes. North trailed 8-6 but again couldn’t take the lead. Before long, East Surry jumped ahead 13-6 off big hits from Maggie Holt.
Cardinal coach Caleb Gilley worked Maddie Payne and Haley Noel into the rotation with much success. East Surry did begin to show some careless attitude in the second set that allowed the Vikings to stay in the fight. When North Stokes tried to capitalize, however, the Cardinals would take control once again.
A prime example of this stemmed from setter Kelsey Heflin. Heflin tricked her opponents into thinking she was setting while instead placing the ball precisely where defenders weren’t. East went on to win the second set handily 25-18.
Despite clearly being the better team, East Surry went into cruise control and let North Stokes keep the game close. The Cards would go from getting quality kills to leaving a hole open on the court in an instant.When this happened, North Stokes would use placement over power to catch the Cardinals off-guard. Once again, East Surry never relinquished the lead, but allowed many more points than it should have.
North Stokes wasn’t giving up despite being down between five and seven points most of the set. If a rally went on longer than 30 seconds, it was likely that the Vikings would take the point. Players in green were diving all over the court like it was a one-point game. But after some encouragement from Gilley, the Cardinals put the Vikings away in a late-game surge to win 25-15.
Libero Morgan Smith led East Surry with four aces on 14 total serves. Smith’s touted a 100 percent serving percentage and her total serves tied for the most on the team with Clayton and Allie Bruner. Defensively, the Cardinals only recorded four blocks, with no player gaining more than one. This is largely due to the lack of spike attempts by the Vikings.
East Surry’s quest to stay undefeated in 1A competition is nearly within reach with only five matches left in the season. Their next will be on Thursday at home against Bishop McGuinness. North Stokes falls to 3-15 and will host Mount Airy Thursday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith