DOBSON — This was more like what North Surry head volleyball coach Shane Slate wanted to see.
The Lady Greyhounds have been a fearsome opponent this season, rolling through their first 12 matches of the season without a loss, and with only one team even seriously challenging them. However, sometimes North Surry can be its own worst enemy, and Slate saw too much of that on Monday in a win over Mount Airy.
Fortunately, an opportunity to rectify that came the very next day, and the Lady Hounds looked more like MaxPreps’ top-ranked 2A team in the state in beating Surry Central 25-3, 25-17, 25-17 Tuesday evening.
“I was not happy with the overall play in yesterday’s match, and I expressed that frustration to the girls after the match,” said Slate. “We won, but we did not play as well as we were capable of.
“Records, rankings and that stuff are great, but my concern has always been that we play as well as we can play.”
North Surry (13-0, 5-0 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) looked like world-beaters in its first set against Central, a set where Slate kept his top six players on the floor and watched them aggressively took the fight to the Lady Eagles on every point. The set began with an ace by Evann Shelnutt and ended with back-to-back aces by Camille Cartwright. Surry Central’s only points of the set came on a service error and two crushing kills from senior middle hitter Taylor Coe. However, North’s service game was so overwhelming that Central rarely got into system in order to give the future Montreat Cavalier more scoring opportunities.
“We started that match, they answered the frustrations I had expressed yesterday,” Slate said.
The Lady Eagles realized they were up against a buzzsaw, and turned up their own game a notch in the second set. The teams split the first eight points before North Surry pulled ahead. The Lady Hounds were up 6-5 when a bad serve by Central sent Paige Sizemore back to the service line and the visitors fired up the steamroller again. Dixie Fulk set Sizemore for a kill, then Cartwright got to the net for a block. Sizemore served an ace to make it 10-5, and the score reached 12-5 before Lady Eagles coach Carrie Bruce asked for time. But Sizemore served another ace out of the break, and then Fulk sent a cross-court pass to Cartwright for a 14-5 lead. Central finally got a side-out, but then Emma Haynes scored a kill and North had it back.
For the rest of the set, the Lady Eagles played very well and actually traded blows the rest of the way, highlighted by an impressive kill from Brooke Snow and a service ace by Tara Blevins, but the huge early deficit was too much to overcome.
Set three began with Central’s Karson Norman blocking Cartwright, but any hope of grabbing early momentum ended when the Lady Eagles then served the ball into the net. North went on a run that ended with a service ace by Cartwright for a 9-3 lead. When Central won two straight points, Natalie Eaton won a showdown at the net for a Lady Hound point, and when North also won the next two, Bruce called time-out following an ace by Martha Holt. Jenna Simpson had a winner for Central, and it was 13-8 when Shelnutt showed her versatility on a play where the Lady Hounds were out of system. The junior libero ended up having to set for Sizemore, and she made a perfect one, which the latter put away to make it 14-8.
But Central refused to fold. Snow served an ace to pull her team back within 16-13. Mikaela Johnson and Holt followed with smashes for North, but Coe scored block to make it 18-14. Finally, the Lady Hounds won five out of the next six points and pulled away to end the match.
“People see the score, but the most important thing is that we didn’t make unforced errors,” said Slate. “Fundamentally, we were where we were supposed to be, and we did the things good volleyball teams do. And we have the potential to be a very good volleyball team.”
The numbers, even more than the score, bore that out. North Surry committed just two ball-handling errors all match. The Lady Hounds had a .346 kill percentage as a team, and served a dozen aces, led by five from Cartwright. Johnson had 11 kills in 13 attempts with just one error. Sizemore, who was devastating on back-row attacks, had 10 kills, just two errors, and 11 digs, tying Cartwright for the team lead. Fulk had 30 assists, while Holt did a little of everything, with six kills, four aces, nine digs and a block.
Surry Central (5-7, 1-1 WPAC) will try to get back on track on Thursday at Walkertown.
North Surry is slated to host Carver on Thursday evening, assuming the Yellowjackets are able to field a team. North’s next match after that will be on Monday, in a clash of powerhouses down in Pfafftown — the state’s top-ranked 2A team visiting the state’s third-ranked 4A team, the Reagan Raiders (10-0).
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.