North Surry’s volleyball team was pumped up for its first serves and spikes in 291 days, and it showed in the first set on Monday’s season opener with visiting West Forsyth.
The defending Western Piedmont Athletic Conference champs never trailed in their 25-18, 25-13, 25-21 straight-set victory over the visiting Lady Titans, but several unforced errors, especially in the first set, made it just a little more interesting than perhaps it should have been.
“I thought we did a lot of good things, but we had too much energy in that first set,” said head coach Shane Slate. “Everything was going long, but once we shook that off and kept the ball in front of us, we did a much better job of attacking.”
However, there was plenty more good on display than bad. For starters, the match marked the return of outside hitter Martha Holt, and few would have guessed that the 6’0” junior hadn’t suited up for the Lady Hounds in almost two calendar years. She and classmate Paige Sizemore actually provided much of the punch in North Surry’s first two set wins, with junior middle hitter Mikaela Johnson dominating up front in the third.
The Lady Hounds took advantage of several mis-hit balls in the first set to lead 8-4, but then made several mistakes of their own and let West Forsyth whittle the lead down to a single point. From there, the teams swapped a few points here and there, but with North Surry never falling behind, before Holt buried a shot hugging the Titans’ back line to give her team a 20-16 advantage. The kill came just seconds after West’s Brittany Jarvis had held off Johnson in a showdown at the net. Titans coach Lauren Yacobi called timeout, but Dixie Fulk responded with a service ace and then Holt put another kill away. From there, the teams traded points, with Johnson, Holt and then Sizemore scoring the final three kills for the Lady Hounds.
North Surry dominated in set two, taking control early when senior Kaylee Freed’s block was followed by an ace from Anna Martin, starting at the libero spot while fellow senior Maggie Hawks recovers from offseason knee surgery. The Lady Hounds led my as many as 12 before a late West Forsyth rally induced Slate to call time with his team still ahead 21-12. Sizemore responded by beating the Titans’ Madie Lichty and Kate Lassiter at the net for a block.
Moments later, with North leading 23-13, the teams battled in the most exciting rally of the match. On two different occasions, the Lady Hounds dug hard-hit balls, only to see them go all the way to the ceiling and ricochet oddly. However, a teammate was on the spot both times to keep the ball alive. Sizemore at one point successfully made a return from the middle with her left hand, and the whole rally seemed to find North Surry players in situations they ideally would not have been in. But it didn’t matter, as setter Fulk finally won the point for her team by blocking West’s outside hitter at the net. The next point, and the set, also went to the Lady Hounds.
North Surry appeared ready to close things out in style when it won the first seven points of set three, but then got sloppy and allowed the Titans to win nine of the next 11 points and tie the set at 9. Again the Lady Hounds prevented West from getting a lead, but it was unable to shake the visitors, who fell behind again before tying the set at 14. Johnson finally gave North the advantage for good with a soft drop shot over the net, and then Fulk served an ace to make it 16-14. From there, the teams swapped points until senior Arin Bunker scored a kill for North to make it 23-19. Freed and Whitney Hall put the final two points away to seal the win for the the Lady Hounds.
“The second set was what I was looking for,” Slate said. “We were really good on routine balls and and ran our offense, really kept them on their heels a lot. In the third set, I think we kind of took a break.”
Holt and Johnson tied for the team lead with seven kills each. Freed added five and Sizemore four. Anna Martin led the defense with 15 digs, followed by Sizemore with 14. Fulk had 25 assists to go with her six aces and two blocks.
North Surry travels to Boone to play Watauga High School on Thursday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.