Two Surry County teams met on the volleyball court Monday afternoon and left trending in different directions.
Both North Surry and Mount Airy have had roller coaster seasons to this point. Despite losing their first conference match in a decade and starting the season 1-3, the Lady Hounds (7-5, 3-1) have won back-to-back matches and six of their last eight.
The injury-plagued Lady Bears (4-5, 0-0) started the season 3-1 but have dropped three straight matches and 4-of-5.
“We’re lacking playing with a lot of fire and a lot of passion right now,” said Bears coach Chuck Morris. “We were able to compete, but just didn’t have the fire to get past the critical points in the match. That’s something we’ve got to find along they way.”
Most disappointing to Morris was the fact that the Lady Bears competed with the Greyhounds for most of the match. When it came set point, however, it was always North Surry playing to win.
“We should be able to contend with anyone,” Morris said. “Tonight we didn’t play very well defensively and we didn’t play well in the system we’ve set up.”
Wins over the Bears yesterday and West Stokes last week have North Surry back on track. Despite struggling at some points in the match, the Lady Hounds showed their killer instinct when it counted and notched another 3-0 victory.
The first set of Monday’s match saw the two teams feeling each other out. North won the first three points off bullet serving from Delaney Fulk. Fulk went on to lead the Hounds in serving with three aces in the match.
A kill from Hanne Cook got the Bears on the board. North’s blockers were neutralized early when Mount Airy ricocheted attacks off the front line. When Hounds Camille Cartwright and Evann Shelnutt sent attacks flying, Kalie Mabe kept the ball going for longer rallies. The Lady Bears tied the game at four all and then took the lead 5-4.
North regained the first-set lead at 9-8 after a pair of blocks from Jessi Shelnutt. An ace from the sophomore Shellnut and a kill from Cartwright forced a Mount Airy timeout.
Avery Cox ended North’s 4-0 run with a kill out of the timeout. North Surry continued throwing attacks until Elizabeth Heck had a big block on Cartwright. This led to a 3-0 Mount Airy run that resulted in a timeout from the home team.
A third lead change nearly happened when Mount Airy tied things up at 18-18. Miscommunication from the Bears allowed North to go on a 7-1 run to win the first set 25-19.
Hannah Moxley joined the attacking game in the second set for North Surry as the Hounds fought for county superiority. The second set was the textbook definition of a back-and-forth affair, featuring six lead changes and 11 ties.
The difference in the second set was the Hounds’ back line. Michaela Stone, Evann Shelnutt, and Olivia Jones rotated keeping the ball in play. Digs and diving saves became the norm as Mount Airy looked for a solution on offense.
Avery Cox sent a number of attacks all over the court, but the ball just kept coming back over. After all the ties and lead changes, North Surry outscored the Bears 10-1 at the end of the set to win 25-16.
Service errors and miscommunication from the Greyhounds led to a 4-2 Mount Airy lead when North’s Shane Slate called a timeout. Emma Haynes and Evann Shelnutt emerged from the break with new life, blocking numerous attacks to take a 7-3 lead.
Evann Shelnutt made an impact offensively for the Hounds in the first two sets but really came alive in the third. Evann went on to lead North Surry with 10 kills and finished one shy of Cartwright in attacks with 32.
The Bears defense just couldn’t hold up against North’s attacks. The game was close but it wasn’t to be for the visiting Granite Bears. North Surry pulled away for a 25-20 third set victory to complete the sweep.
Team’s are having to step up with conference play approaching. For Mount Airy, Morris said the key for his team is to rediscover their fighting spirit and will to win.
“I have faith that somewhere were gonna find that energy again. I’m not sure where that’s going to come from but we need it quickly,” Morris said.
Conference play begins for the Granite Bears tonight with a double-header against Winston-Salem Prep. North Surry resumes conference competition tonight with another county face-off by hosting Surry Central.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith