Defending Mountain Valley 2A Conference champ North Wilkes came to play on Thursday night.
Fortunately, so did their hosts, the Lady Bears of Mount Airy.
The visitors saved two match points and pulled out the first set of a closely-contested showdown of local volleyball powerhouses, but the Lady Bears responded with some fire of their own, and eventually wore down their guests for a 24-26, 25-22, 25-21, 25-12 victory on Thursday evening.
“This is a good early-season win for us,” said head coach Chuck Morris, whose team improved to 2-0 with the victory. “(North Wilkes) is part of our early-season non-conference matches, and we feel like we need to be at least .500 in them.
“We got good work from a lot of different places tonight.”
The Lady Vikings took the fight to their hosts early on, taking advantage of three early errors by Mount Airy to build an 11-7 lead in the first set. The Lady Bears were down 17-13 when they ran off three points in a row, and finally tied the set at 18 on a kill by Sadie Brooks. Kayla Hicks followed with a service ace for a 19-18 lead, and two kills by Piper Draughon appeared to have the home team in control of set one. However, Wilkes came storming back after Mount Airy reached double set point at 24-22, winning the next four points in a row to take the set.
Ultimately, Morris felt that the Lady Vikings had earned the victory, and that his own team would have to rise to the challenge.
“We only had three serving errors and three passing errors, and one dig error,” he said. “I thought they played pretty well in the first set, it wasn’t just about our mistakes.”
The second set started off much better. Mount Airy led 3-0 on a Brooks kill, followed by a block from Hanne Cook and a service ace by Avery Cox. After a service error put Wilkes on the board, Brooks took control, scoring a kill, then serving two aces sandwiched around a kill where Madeline Mayfield powered a ball through the visitors’ Raygan Casstevens. It was 11-2 before the Lady Vikings finally got untracked, using strong floor play and serving from Casstevens and hitting by Avery Wood to get back into the set. A 16-8 run by the Lady Vikings pulled them within 19-18 before Wood hit a bad serve and then Madeline Mayfield scored a block on Sapphire Nichols. That made it a three-point set, but Wilkes battled back to 23-22 before Cox scored a kill and Brooks powered a ball through Elizabeth Martin on set point.
In set three, the visitors scored the first two points, but then Brooks served off five straight, capped off by an ace. The Lady Vikings were down 6-5 when Mount Airy went on a 9-0 spree and appeared to be in control of things, on top 15-6. Then a 12-5 run by North Wilkes made it 20-18 and forced Morris to signal for a time-out. The teams traded points for a time, and it was 22-20 when Ward scored on a dink shot. Moments later, the Lady Bears won the set when Draughon powered a ball off Ashley Maison.
In set four, the Lady Vikings finally seemed to run out of gas. Two early blocks by Cox and Cooke helped Mount Airy take a 4-1 lead, but Wilkes battled back to tie it at 5. Ward, finally finding a groove as the match went alone, smashed a ball to put the Lady Bears back on top. Brooks surprised the guests with an on-two kill to put Mount Airy back on top by three, 11-8. Wood responded for Wilkes, and the score was 12-9 when Brooks served one into the net, only to get the point right back with a thunderous swat into the back line of the Lady Vikings’ defense. This gave Cooke the serve, and she delivered an ace. Ward got in on the fun with a block on Wood, and Cox put one away to finish a long rally. When Draughon dinked an over-hit ball back across for a 19-11 lead, Wilkes called time-out, but there wouldn’t be another rally. Six of the final seven points went to the Lady Bears.
“Our senior leadership was big tonight,” said Morris. “I thought Sadie and Madeline and Kayla did a great job in the first three sets, and in the fourth set, Arry finally got on track and made a big difference in the fourth set.”
Mount Airy will host Surry Central and Alleghany in a tri-match on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.