PILOT MOUNTAIN — It might be August and not March Madness, but Surry Central’s volleyball team made like the Cardiac Pack on Tuesday.
Like the N.C. State basketball team that kept pulling out come-from-behind wins in 1982, the Lady Eagles trailed late in every set, but pulled out a 3-2 win against East Surry.
Early on, it didn’t look like the Lady Cardinals would have much trouble with Central.
A 6-0 run gave the Cards an early lead. By 19-12, Eagle coach Carrie Hutchens had used both timeouts.
On the next point, the Eagles made two great scrambles to keep the rally going before winning the point. That got the visiting crowd going, and Central put together a 6-1 run to close to 20-18.
East Surry would go on to win 25-20, but the Eagles looked ready to compete.
Hayley Whitaker served East to an early lead in the second frame. Then Sarah Marion helped extend that margin to 19-11. Five more points with Whitaker at the service line ensured that Central wouldn’t come back in this set in a 25-15 win.
That gave East a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five format.
In the third set, Central jumped out to a 7-1 lead, but the Cards came back with a 7-1 push of their own.
The match was tied at 8, 9, 10 and 13 before Central put together a few points for a 16-13 lead.
East Surry scored seven straight points for a 20-16 lead and was poised to end the night early.
The Eagles didn’t give up and finished the set on a 9-3 run to win 25-23. That gave the visitors new life.
Like the third set, the Eagles opened with a 7-1 spurt.
The lead was 16-10 when East’s Bethany Clayton got on a roll, hitting four straight kills.
When Bryce Smith hit two straight aces, the Cards had tied the game 17-all. A kill from Clayton and one from Sydney Marion (returning from a sprained ankle) gave East a 19-17 lead.
Central earned side out, then Taylor Coe served the team to the end, eight straight points for a 25-19 win.
That forced a 15-point fifth set.
That set was tied at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. East was up 6-5 when a swing by Central hit near the top of the net and bounced back.
East coach Caleb Gilley called for four hits, but the officials ruled the ball was blocked back by the Cards. Central won the point to keep the match tied at 6-all.
They were tied at 7 and 8 before East pulled ahead 10-8.
The Eagles got the ball back, and Sarah Ford served the team to a 15-10 win.
“Hats off to Surry Central,” said Gilley. “We got on them 2-0. … They didn’t quit. That is a testament to Carrie’s coaching.”
As for his own team, Gilley said, “We’ve got to figure out how to finish games and finish sets.”
In each of the final three sets, the coach felt East had a chance to win, but didn’t close it out.
Some of the problems were foolish mistakes like losing their fundamentals or standing up straight on defense instead of getting into a crouch. At times the girls were watching the action instead of anticipating, he said. These are things that must be corrected in order for East to hang with the better teams in the Northwest Conference.
For Central, Hutchens said, “We have a really young team, and it’s the beginning of the season. We needed to get that win to help ourselves bond a little better and have confidence in each other.”
The girls were swept by Alleghany in the opener last week, and they got down on themselves, Hutchens said. Then a big 3-0 win on Monday at West Wilkes gave the girls a needed confidence boost.
Still, the Eagles looked a little nervous at the start and made too many unforced errors, the coach believed. Perseverance paid off, she said, and the girls began to play smarter and were able to figure out the best way to beat East.
While a huge comeback, Hutchens wouldn’t call it her biggest. She recalled beating East Surry in similar fashion in her rookie season three years ago. Unlike this one, the 2012 match was in the semifinals of the Northwest Conference Tournament.
This is her fourth year coaching the high school, Hutchens noted, so this group of seniors started with her as freshmen.
Central (2-1) is off the rest of the week before facing West Forsyth at home next Tuesday.
East Surry (3-2) travels to Allegheny on Thursday.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692 and on Twitter @SportsDudeJeff.