Surry Central didn’t come to county rival North Surry on Thursday evening to be part of a coronation.
The No. 1-ranked Lady Greyhounds had the Lady Eagles as their guests for Senior Night, the final regular-season home match for North Surry seniors Paige Sizemore, Dixie Fulk, Mikaela Johnson, Martha Holt and Karlie Marion. It was also the night where North could clinch outright its ninth straight Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title. And they did get it — but Central made them earn it.
Playing inspired volleyball all evening, Central took the second set from the state’s top-ranked 2A team and gave them a battle the rest of the way before North finally took a 25-17, 21-25, 25-12, 25-20 victory and improved to 11-0 in WPAC action.
The Lady Hounds, who are now 22-1 overall, spent much of the evening playing out of system and helping keep Surry Central (9-12, 5-5 WPAC) in the match, but the Lady Eagles turned in a strong performance in their own right, and refused to back down against their heavily favored rivals.
“The last couple of matches, tonight and the last one against Starmount, we’ve been standing around too much, both defensively and on serve receive,” said North Surry coach Shane Slate. “We stayed out of system because we didn’t pass the ball well, and we had about 30 unforced errors.”
There were moments in this match where an upset by Central didn’t seem unthinkable. After a second set where the Lady Eagles stood toe-to-toe with North Surry and held their ground on several attempts by the Lady Hounds to come back, the teams split the first 10 points of set three and one could hear North Surry fans encouraging their team to get going.
The home team finally took the lead in the match for good when senior setter Fulk caught the Central defense off-balance with an on-two kill. Classmate Johnson followed with a blast that Central’s Taylor Coe couldn’t handle, and that got the Lady Hounds off to a 7-0 run capped off by a service ace from Evann Shelnutt. The Lady Eagles sliced the lead back to 14-9, but then North reeled off five more points in a row, featuring attacks from both right and left from Holt and Sizemore. The capper was a play on the left side, where Sizemore received a set from Fulk and Tara Blevins came up to challenge her. However, Sizemore was able to angle the shot off Blevins’ block for the kill, putting North ahead 19-9 in a set they eventually won 25-12 for a 2-1 lead.
However, the Lady Eagles refused to give up. The first 18 points of the fourth set were split evenly, with neither team ever winning more than two in a row or leading by more than a single point. Finally, with Fulk serving at 10-9, Holt got to the net and put away an overhit for a two-point Lady Hound lead. They led the rest of the way, but couldn’t put Central away. After Johnson served an ace for a 15-11 lead, the Lady Eagles mounted a rally following a service error. Ema Coe scored a kill from the middle of the floor, and then Central won the next point to close within one. It was 16-15 when Fulk, forced to make a finishing play with her team out of system, scored a kill to put North back up two. The Lady Hounds won the next two, and then Camille Cartwright angled a shot across the court from left to right for a kill and a 20-16 lead.
Surry Central head coach Carrie Bruce called time, and Taylor Coe answered with back-to-back kills, but then Cartwright had a winner to make it 22-18. A second Central time-out energized Coe, and she blocked Holt to pull the Lady Eagles within three again. Holt didn’t much like that, and went for a kill at the back of the Central defense, which she scored. Then she set the ball for Johnson at 23-19, who converted for quadruple match point. Blevins saved the first, but North won on the next point.
The Lady Eagles led 7-4 early in set one, but a 10-1 North Surry run featuring excellent serving by Fulk and strong hitting on the outsides from Holt and Sizemore staked the Lady Hounds to a 14-8 lead. Coe and Blevins scored off strong passing from Brooke Snow to get their team back within 17-14, but then Fulk set Johnson for a crushing blow that started North on a run back to a six-point lead. This time, Central couldn’t come back.
The Lady Eagles never trailed in a third set where they looked like the state’s top-ranked team and North Surry didn’t. Central built an early 6-2 lead, and refused to back down even after the Lady Hounds tied it at 7. Jenna Simpson hit a winner, and then she and Snow blocked Holt to make it 9-7. Snow made it 13-10 with an ace, and then Taylor Coe blocked Cartwright. Karson Norman had a winner before Johnson turned the tables and rejected Taylor Coe as her team closed the gap back to two points. Again, Central held tough and won the next four in a row, prompting Slate to call time down 21-15. Holt won the next on a dink shot, and Natalie Eaton had a kill to make it 22-19, but North couldn’t get any closer. Norman won the next one on a dump shot and the Lady Eagles joined East Surry, West Forsyth, Forbush and Reagan as the only teams to win a set from North all season.
Sizemore, with 12 kills and 23 digs, and Holt, with 10 kills, five assists and 23 digs, carried much of the load for North Surry. Johnson added nine kills and Cartwright seven. Fulk tallied 32 assists and 18 digs, while Shelnutt led the team with 24 digs.
The Lady Hounds wrap up their regular season at Carver on Tuesday of next week. Central hosts Walkertown on Tuesday and finishes with West Stokes on Thursday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.