While it’s not likely to make many highlight reels of the 2016 Mount Airy volleyball season, it’s always a special occasion when a team hits the magical 20-win plateau for the season.
The state’s ninth-ranked 1A volleyball team achieved that feat on Monday evening, improving to 20-4 on the season by dispatching Northwest Conference cellar-dweller Winston-Salem Prep in the first round of the conference tournament.
The Lady Bears, who are likely to early at least one more home match in the state playoffs due to their impressive record, advanced to second-round action in the tournament. Mount Airy will face North Stokes (10-13) in the second round of the playoffs this evening at East Surry High School. The Lady Vikings defeated Atkins in straight sets to advance to today’s semifinals. Regular-season champion East Surry (20-4) had a bye into the semifinals and will face Bishop McGuinness (8-12) in the other semifinal.
Semifinal winners will play each other on Wednesday night for the championship, also at East Surry.
Against Prep, the Lady Bears expected little trouble and got little trouble, winning 25-2, 25-3, 25-2. The Phoenix is mostly made up of players who have little experience with the sport, while many of the Mount Airy players are year-round volleyball players.
In the first set, Sarah Lankford served her team to a 7-0 lead, including an ace, before Winston-Salem Prep coach Philia Leach called a time-out. Lankford promptly served another ace coming out of the break. The Phoenix struggled even to receive serve, and often even when they did, they returned it over the net and the Lady Bears’ Arry Ward dunked it back over the net for a kill. Lankford finally allowed a point when she served a ball one foot past the back line at 20-0. Prep did manage a kill to save set point at 24-1, but Ward scored another kill on the second set point.
In set two, Megan Fleming led off serving for the Lady Bears and served an ace for a 5-1 lead before Leach was calling time again. They managed to get their second point out of the break, but then Mount Airy started rolling again, with Kayla Hicks serving back-to-back aces followed by another Ward kill off an overhit to make it 13-2. The Lady Bears sailed in from there for the set win at 25-3.
Sadie Brooks served for Mount Airy to open set three and carried them all the way to a 17-0 lead before serving long. The fifth point in the run was a rare block for Fleming, who had just five all season coming into the match. Prep got a point off the long serve and later picked up a second one, but the match was played to a conclusion in roughly 40 minutes.
Ward and Brooks led the team with five kills each, followed by Madeline Mayfield with four and Fleming with three. The Lady Bears had 40 service aces, led by Fleming with 12 and Lankford with 10. Hanne Cooke had 12 assists and Lankford nine.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.