PILOT MOUNTAIN — The saying,“Good things come in threes,” is a statement that the East Surry Lady Cardinals would definitely support. In their third meeting this season against the South Stokes, East Surry recorded a 3-0 victory over the Sauras to propel the Cards into the third round of the state playoffs.
The opening rallies of the match almost prohibited me from using the number three so much in the opening paragraph. Two net violations by East Surry and a blocked kill by Sarah Marion gave the advantage to South Stokes.
Bethany Clayton woke her team (and anyone within a two mile radius) up with a resounding spike. Clayton had mercy on the ball on the ensuing plays, electing to fake the other team out with a tip rather than a spike with enough force to leave Earth’s atmosphere.
The Cardinals took control of the set and went up 9-5. Then Maggie Holt took the reins from Clayton and dominated net play for the Cards. Clayton and Holt combined for 70 percent of the Cardinals’ kills. With momentum no longer on their side, the Sauras were in trouble.
Marion approached the service line and extended East Surry’s lead. South Stokes struggled to return Marion’s serves and let the set get away from them. Marion finished with 13 serves a team-high three aces in the match.
With Holt and Clayton crushing balls at the net, it was up to the back line to feed them. Morgan Smith and Allie Bruner did well to contain attacks made by the visitors and turn it into offense for their hitters. The ball didn’t always make it to the back line, with Clayton and Maddie Payne combining for seven blocks. East Surry continued to dominate and won the first set 25-13.
Despite a seemingly sluggish start in the second set, East Surry never surrendered the lead. A 4-4 tie was the closest South Stokes came to threatening East. Lilly Weaver of the Sauras was the primary threat for her team at the net but struggled to get good looks around the Cards’ blockers.
Payne contained Weaver and gave Clayton opportunities to put the ball away. Clayton’s 35 attacks kept constant pressure on the Sauras, who struggled to return the powerful hits. Clayton moved to the service line and increased the East Surry lead to 13-5.
Despite closing the gap to 13-10, South Stokes never took the steering wheel away from East Surry. The Cardinals outscored the Sauras 12-3 to win the second set 25-14.
A pair of missed serves at the start of set three gave the Sauras their first lead in any set, albeit a slim one at 2-1. Lift penalties on South Stokes put East back in the lead. The visitors continued to set up attacks, but even if they bypassed the Cardinal blockers, the East Surry back line allowed very few balls to hit the ground. The trio of Smith, Bruner, and Clayton recorded 41 digs.
When South Stokes was able to side-out and serve, the efficient Cards very rarely made a mistake. Only three times did the Cardinals commit a service error.
The East Surry lead grew and grew due to Clayton and Marion pounding ball after ball at the Sauras. Once Clayton nearly deflated the ball with a kill, it was apparent that the 19-7 lead was too much for South Stokes to overcome.
East coach Caleb Gilley subbed in Emma Brown, Dasia Lambert, Haley Noel, Chelsea Tucker, and Anna Kate Badgett at various points to finish the match. East Surry emerged victorious 25-12 to complete the 3-0 sweep.
Advancing to 25-2 on the season, East Surry will host Starmount (17-8) on Thursday in the third round of the 1A state playoffs.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith