Mount Airy stepped up its game a bit for its rematch with county rival North Surry on Monday evening.
Unfortunately for them, so did the Lady Hounds.
The host Lady Bears sent an early message to the state’s second-ranked 2A team that they wouldn’t roll over without a fight, but North took the fight right back to them, overcoming two impressive runs by the home team in the first two sets and taking a 25-16, 25-21, 25-10 victory.
“I didn’t think we blocked well in the first set, but we got into a bit of a rhythm in the second set,” said North Surry head coach Shane Slate, whose team improved to 17-1 on the season. “We certainly played better than the last time we played (Mount Airy).”
North Surry won its third straight match since suffering its only loss of the season a week ago at unbeaten 4A Reagan. Just two weeks remain in a season where the Lady Hounds are closing in on another Western Piedmont Athletic Conference title and a potential high seed in the state playoffs.
The Lady Bears started out set one impressively. The teams split the first 10 points, with Arry Ward earning three of the Lady Bears’ first five points on three different kinds of shots. The third of her kills put teammate Kayla Hicks on the serving line, where she delivered an ace that gave the Lady Bears the lead. Then Piper Draughon scored a couple of kills, the second by blasting a ball through the block of North Surry’s Camille Cartwright, and Mount Airy held a surprising 9-6 lead.
The hosts weren’t clearly impressed by North Surry’s record, and if the Lady Hounds wanted this one, they would have to answer the bell. They proceeded to demonstrate that they could.
North earned a side-out, and then Paige Sizemore made a diving save on a kill attempt by Madeline Mayfield, not only keeping the ball off the floor but also sending it back across the net, where it landed just inside the sideline for a Lady Hound point. It was the start of an outstanding day for the senior, who had eight kills and zero attack errors in the match. Sizemore was also on serve during this run, which saw North Surry run off six straight points and take a 12-9 lead when Cartwright hit a winner off a long rally. The Lady Hounds wouldn’t trail again in set one, while Mount Airy shot itself in the foot with three bad serves down the stretch.
North scored the first six points of the second set, but the Lady Bears battled back and were within 7-5 when Mayfield served an ace. Not to be outdone, the Lady Hounds handled her next serve, got it into the hands of Dixie Fulk, and the senior made a perfect set for Mikaela Johnson, who stopped the rally in its tracks. North went on a run of its own, going ahead 15-9 on an ace by Fulk before Ward scored for Mount Airy. The lead reached seven points when Natalie Eaton drilled an overhit for a 22-15 advantage. However, the Lady Bears still had some fight left in them.
Mount Airy scored three straight points on a kill by Hanne Cooke, followed by Draughon’s ace and then Hannah Williams finishing off a rally with a kill on the outside. Some bad luck followed for the Lady Hounds, when Cartwright hit kill attempts about an inch wide on both the left and right sides, but that made it 22-20. A service error finally gave North a point, but then Fulk was called for a lift on a play where Slate thought a bad call had been made. The score was now 23-21, but Fulk and Johnson took matters into their own hands. The next play ended up in another set by the former, and a smash from Johnson for double set point, which they converted.
The third set saw North Surry lead from wire to wire. The Lady Hounds took an early 5-2 lead, and pushed it to 10-5 before Mount Airy scored three straight points, the last on a block by Cooke. But the Lady Bears had shot their last bolt with that run. Emma Haynes scored a kill to give North a side-out and they ran off the next several points in a row, including back-to-back aces by Evann Shelnutt at one point, followed by a block by Johnson that made it 15-8.
Mount Airy got another side-out, but couldn’t maintain possession as Fulk went back to the service line and the Lady Hounds zoomed all the way to a 24-9 lead. After a time-out, she was too pumped up and served long, but earned her 25th assist of the match on the next point to end it.
Johnson and Sizemore tied for the team lead with eight kills, but it was the latter’s day to shine, with a team-high 15 digs as well. Fulk had 11 kills and three aces to go with her assists, while Cartwright had seven kills and Martha Holt had five kills, seven digs and a pair of blocks.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.