PILOT MOUNTAIN — “Better late than never,” was the consensus reached by the Cardinal faithful after Tuesday’s home volleyball match. East Surry overcame an 0-2 set deficit to defeat North Surry for the first time since 2015.
North and East faced each other six times from 2015 to 2017. In that span, the Lady Hounds held a 5-1 record, with the only Cardinal victory coming on August 20, 2015. There have been a number of 3-2 matches between the two since then, but the scales always tipped the way of North Surry. Tuesday’s match looked to be another Greyhound victory through the first two sets.
“I feel very good, now,” said Cardinal coach Caleb Gilley. “After sets one and two, I didn’t feel very good, but I knew we were a better team. We didn’t have a lot of effort and we weren’t playing as clean as I know that we can.”
Sets one and two were all North Surry. The combination of Jessi Shelnutt’s defense and kills from Natalie Eaton, Hannah Moxley, and Camille Cartwright was too much for East to handle. Every time the Cards would fight back to within a few points, the Lady Hounds easily extended the lead. North won the first set 25-20 having never trailed.
East Surry took advantage of early errors to take a 2-0 lead in the second set. The lead wouldn’t last, however, as North went on an 8-0 run to re-establish dominance. The Hounds pulled away to 15-5 before winning the second set handily, 25-14.
Just when it seemed Shane Slate’s Greyhounds were headed for their sixth straight win over their county rival, East Surry came alive. The Cards’ hits started connecting, and more importantly, they minimized unforced errors.
The change in East Surry between sets two and three can’t be pinpointed to just one thing, but perhaps the most important thing to Gilley was the type and amount of energy his players exerted.
“They knew that at that point, if we didn’t get it together, we were going to get swept,” Gilley said. “I felt like our energy got higher, from everybody, but I also think a big thing was that Leah Hayes gave us a huge lift off the bench.”
The two teams were back and forth for the majority of the set until Hayes entered at 16-16. Hayes proceeded to serve the Cards on the way to a 6-0 run. Outside hitters Morgan Smith and Allie Bruner started playing some of their best ball of the night at this point as the Cardinals pulled out a 25-18 win to stay alive.
East Surry’s resurgence in the third set didn’t put them head and shoulders over the Hounds, but it did make the playing field much more even than in the first two. Cartwright and Moxley, who combined for 70 total attacks and 20 kills, continued to pressure the Cardinal blockers and back line. Cardinals Holt and Maddie Payne stepped their blocking game in the fourth set to better neutralize the barrage of attacks.
North held a 19-17 lead coming out of a Cardinal timeout. In a set that was being decided by long rallies, East Surry went on a 8-2 run out of the timeout to win the fourth set 25-21.
In what seemed improbable just an hour previously, East Surry began the fifth set with five straight points. This included an almost horizontal laser serve from Smith and a kill from Holt that shook the gym. In almost reverse fashion from the first two sets, East Surry nullified any points from the Hounds with three of their own. The Cardinals completed the comeback with a 15-6 victory in the fifth set to earn their second match win of the season.
Fall sports may have just began, but the bar has already been set by these two powerhouses. Gilley knows that if the Lady Cards are going to continue winning, though, they can’t start out how they did today.
“I hope that it’s an early in the season thing that never happens again. Basically, now that we’ve been there we know how much energy we have to have at the start of every game,” Gilley said.
East Surry (2-0) will travel to West Stokes (0-1) on Friday. The Lady Greyhounds (1-1) look to get back on track when they host Watauga (1-0) Friday.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith