PILOT MOUNTAIN — Volleyball school was in for the Highland School of Technology on Wednesday evening, and the East Surry Lady Cardinals were the instructors.
The Northwest 1A Conference champs opened their NCHSAA 1A state playoff run with an easy 25-13, 25-8, 25-9 victory over the Lady Rams, and advanced to a second-round matchup tonight that pits two of the state’s top 10 1A teams. No. 3 seed East Surry (23-4), ranked seventh in the state by MaxPreps.com, will host sixth seed Murphy, which despite its sixth seed, is ranked fifth in the state by MaxPreps. The Lady Bulldogs (20-2) defeated Starmount in five sets during Wednesday’s first round, narrowly avoiding an upset with a 15-13 win in set five to advance.
Few people expected the Lady Cardinals to have any trouble with Highland Tech, a Gastonia-based charter school that qualified as a wild card after finishing fifth in the Southern Piedmont 1A. Those expectations were borne out, as the Lady Cardinals barely broke a sweat in the first set and then cruised in the last two. East Surry has now won 16 of its last 17 matches, with the only loss coming by two points in the fifth set of a match against a 2A team.
The best chance for the Lady Rams (9-13) might have been to kidnap Bethany Clayton before the match got under way. The 5’10” junior led the Lady Cardinals with both 25 assists and 11 kills, and coach Caleb Gilley felt comfortable enough with his team’s advantage that he used every player on his roster and frequently played them out of their normal positions. Six other East Surry players besides Clayton had assists in the match, and eight different Lady Cardinals had at least one kill. Following Clayton in that department were Sarah Marion with seven, Alyssa Jessup with six and Cameron Sloop with four. No matter who set and who hit, it didn’t matter much — East Surry committed just three attack errors all evening.
Tara Beck and Clayton each served three aces for the winners, while Allie Brunner and Morgan Smith had two each. Kendall Beck led the front-line defense with four blocks, with Marion and Maggie Holt collecting three each, and Clayton two. Cameron Sloop led with 10 digs, followed by Grace Kiser and Elise Hayes with seven each