Losing isn’t something the North Surry Greyhound seniors are used to.
The Lady Hounds’ volleyball team boasted an incredible 75-15 record in the 2018-19 seniors’ first three years. With a 3-0 loss to 3A powerhouse Watauga (2-0) on Thursday, North Surry dropped to 1-2. The last time North Surry lost back-to-back matches was September 10, 2016, as part of a tri-match with 4A Ronald Reagan High School and then-4A Watauga.
Coach Shane Slate isn’t panicking over the team’s record and remains optimistic that his young team will put the pieces together.
“Consistency is our biggest issue right now,” Slate said. “Even in the win on Monday against Starmount, we were up and down. Obviously on Tuesday, we were up 2-0 and we had a chance to take that match. We let up and East Surry took advantage of it. Then today, [we] had a little bit of a slow start, but once we got a few points into that first set, it was bang-bang, back-and-forth.”
With a team of five seniors, many of whom didn’t start last season, North Surry’s inexperience showed at times. The team also had moments in the matches against both East Surry and Watauga where everything clicked, and it looked as if they could contend with anyone in the state.
“We played really well against [Watauga], that’s a really good volleyball team,” Slate said. “At times we played right with them, but then when things don’t go our way, we’re not adjusting to it very well. It happened on Tuesday and it happened today. That’s the thing we’ve got to overcome. We’ve got to get used to playing with each other.”
Watauga came onto the court swinging in the first set. The Pioneers’ size forced North Surry to make a number of unforced errors, as the Hounds went on to commit 23 attacking errors. This led to a quick timeout by Slate after the visitors took a 6-2 lead. Jessi Shelnutt and Delaney Fulk came out of the timeout with big blocks, but it wasn’t enough to stop Watauga from taking a seven-point lead.
A kill from Camille Cartwright woke the Hounds’ offense up. Natalie Eaton added to North Surry’s total with a tip over the giant front line of their opponent. Hannah Moxley also altered her hitting game from power to placement as North cut its deficit to 13-16.
No longer were exchanges lasting 10-15 seconds. Longer and longer rallies ensued as North Surry crept back slowly and eventually took the lead at 19-18, but it didn’t stop there. North Surry’s blockers put continued pressure on the Pioneers and forced Watauga to change their own game plan. Libero Evann Shelnutt made a number of diving saves to keep rallies alive. It wasn’t until a massive kill from Watauga’s Rebekah Farthing that North Surry’s run was halted.
The Pioneers were finally able to serve again when they trailed 19-23. Watauga served six straight points to give it the 25-23 win in the first set.
Down a set, the wheels started to come off for North Surry. Service errors and miscommunication gave the guests a 9-3 advantage in set two. An attack by Cartwright, who led the Hounds with eight kills and 31 attacks, forced finally broke the Pioneers’ scoring streak. It was hardly enough to slow them down. The Greyhounds were able to cut a 17-7 deficit to just six points, but the Pioneers proceeded to win eight straight points to take the second set 25-11.
Four straight points by Watauga in the third set led to a timeout from Slate. A few service errors by the Pioneers and tips from Moxley got the Hounds back in the game. By switching to a play style that emphasized placement over power, North cut the score to 8-10.
As quickly as the lead was reduced, it shot back up as Watauga proved too much for the young team. The Pioneers went on to take the third set 25-14 and the match 3-0.
North Surry’s schedule doesn’t get any easier from here. The Lady Hounds host Reagan (2-0) on August 20 and travel to Alleghany (0-0) on August 22.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith