In recent years, no one ever spoke of great team chemistry when the subject of Surry Central volleyball was being discussed.
But after Tuesday night, few would question that the 2018 Lady Eagles have it. After two hours’ worth of some of the best volleyball played by the Lady Golden Eagles in quite some time, Central pulled off something it hadn’t done in at least a dozen years.
“I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that we’re not the typical Surry Central team,” first-year head coach Brittany Tolbert said after her team knocked off North Surry in four sets. “We have great team chemistry. These 10 players had never played together before this season, but for some reason they have come together. They build each other up, they’re always getting each other up, and it’s great. That’s what makes for a great team.
“I’m so excited for my girls that we could beat North Surry. This is something that hasn’t been accomplished in a while, but now we have to get back to the gym and keep working.”
Surry Central (7-7, 4-1 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) hadn’t beaten the Lady Greyhounds in so long that MaxPreps doesn’t even have a record of the last time it occurred. The site keeps records going back to the 2007 season, and doesn’t record any victories for the Lady Eagles over North in all of those years. Tuesday started like it would be more of the same, as the host Lady Hounds scored the last four points of set one and then fought off five set points for Central in set two. However, the rest of the night was all black and gold. Central earned a 21-25, 27-25, 25-17, 25-15 victory, and now owns a win over all three of its county rivals this season.
North Surry, which hadn’t lost so much as a conference match in a decade until it fell to Forbush seven days earlier, falls to 6-6 and 2-2 in league action.
The Lady Hounds might have had a shot if they could have picked up two more points in the second set. In set one, North led most of the way, but the Lady Eagles had a run in the middle of the set and pulled head 17-15. The home team caught up and the teams basically traded points until it was 21-all. Then Camille Cartwright scored a kill from the outside left side and her team won the next three points to take the set. In set two, North led 4-1 early, but Central surged ahead again. The lead went from two to four points all the way to a quadruple set point, the Lady Eagles serving at 24-20. However, North saved all four and tied the set at 24 before committing a service error. The Lady Hounds then saved a fifth set point at 25-24, but the Lady Eagles responded. Madison Goins delivered her team’s sixth set point when she smashed a ball that a North defender couldn’t handle. Jordyn Coe stepped to the service line, delivered an ace, and the match was tied at a set apiece.
“Our serve receive killed us in that first set, and I pride ourselves on our serve receive,” said Tolbert. “We are a good serve receiver team, but we came out a little rusty, but we got on it in that second set.”
At this point, the “smart money” might have still been on the team in blue. But the final two sets of the match were dominated by the Lady Eagles, who seemed to play with more and more confidence as the match moved along. Early in set three, Central won seven straight points and built a 10-3 lead. Included in the spree were two kills by Jenna Simpson, an ace by Abigail Johnson, and two other Johnson serves that North failed to return in three hits. Lady Hound senior Natalie Eaton tried to fire her team up by scoring a block on Coe, but Tara Blevins smashed a shot from one sideline across to the other, and then the teams traded for a while. Lady Hound senior Cartwright tried to keep her team in the set, but Central was playing superb volleyball, covering the floor with dig after dig by Johnson, Coe and Goins, strong passing, and teamwork. The lead got to 17-8 when Emma Garland floated an ace just over the net.
The Lady Hounds battled back with a 5-2 run, and Tolbert called time-out to settle her team down. Right out of the break, Coe returned the favor on Eaton with a block of her own. Central built the lead back to 10 before North sliced it down to six. At 23-16, Goins put a ball off a defender for set point, and the Lady Eagles took it two points later.
Set four began as a tour de force for the Lady Eagles. With the score 4-2, Mia McMillen leaped over the net and slammed down a North serve receive that went over the net. Two points later, Garland had another ace. McMillen had a block on the next play to make it 8-2. Emma Haynes got a good set and broke the run on the next point, but Simpson got it right back for her team. North Surry went on a 4-0 run to make it 10-7, but Tolbert again killed the home team’s momentum by calling time. Central won the next point and then Coe served another ace. With the score 14-10, Simpson had back-to-back rejections on Evann Shelnutt and then Cartwright, pushing the lead to six.
North won three in a row and was serving at 16-13 following a Delaney Fulk ace, but Blevins stepped up for her team and then McMillen won the next one, both off excellent setting from Goins. Johnson went back to the service line at 19-14 and delivered two straight serves that North failed to return in three hits. The score got to 22-14 on a play where Blevins ended up in the setting role, but delivered an on-two attack that the Lady Hounds were unable to handle. Johnson served an ace, and after a few more exchanges the match was over.
Tolbert rotated eight players throughout the match and had six players with between five and nine kills. As a team, Central had 101 digs, led by Johnson’s 30, a total of 36 assists, and outscored North Surry 52-32 over the final 84 points. Garland had a strong all-around game with 20 digs and seven kills, as did McMillen (18 digs, three aces and nine kills), Goins (21 assists, 13 digs, six kills), and freshman Jaylyn Templeton came off the bench and had 12 assists, allowing Goins to spend some time on the attack.
North Surry struggled with 26 attack errors and an .074 percentage. Shelnutt had a team-high 22 digs and nine kills, Cartwright seven kills and 19 digs, Fulk had 28 assists and 18 digs, and Michaela Stone had 16 digs and five aces.
Central hosts Walkertown on Thursday evening. North Surry will try to get back on track at Carver that same day.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.