DOBSON — For the first half of Surry Central’s Tuesday evening volleyball match with West Stokes, the Lady Eagles made it look easy. Maybe too easy.
The second half of Central’s 25-14, 25-20, 28-26 victory over the Lady Cats was a dogfight, thanks in part to a lapse of focus by the Lady Eagles and some very inspired play by their guests. Central led the second set 23-10 at one point, but then allowed 10 straight points before righting the ship and putting West Stokes (3-12, 3-4 WPAC) away. In set three, the Lady Eagles actually fought off one set point before winning the match on their third match point.
“That second set, I thought we were getting comfortable, like we thought we had it,” said Lady Eagles head coach Brittany Tolbert. “I called a time-out and said ‘look girls, you got to go out there and get it.’ West Stokes made a heck of a run.”
Surry Central, which began the season 0-5, made it back over the .500 mark for the season with the straight-set win. The Lady Eagles are now 8-7 overall, and more importantly, 5-1 in Western Piedmont Athletic Conference play with a five-day break before starting the second half of the league slate.
Central had been off for a week since scoring a historical win over arch-rival North Surry a week ago, but the Lady Eagles showed no signs of rust early on, except perhaps in the service game. The home team won nine of the first 10 points, punctured only by the first of 10 service errors, before Blakeleigh Goldbach finally made a kill that got West on the board. The Lady Cats finally got some offense going after that, but Central kept rolling, with Jordyn Coe scoring a back that made it 13-5, and then reaching double-digits when a West Stokes dig attempt cleared the net and got smashed by Jenna Simpson. The Cats won three of the next four, but Emma Garland stepped up and whacked a ball that Abby Walker couldn’t dig off the back line for West to make it 18-9, and the teams more or less traded blows for the rest of the opening set.
The Lady Eagles stayed in system to open set two as Madison Goins set up Tara Blevins and then Simpson to win the first two points. After another service error got West on the board, Goins called her own number with an on-two play, and after yet another bad serve, Mia McMillen scored off a dump shot to make it 4-2 and send teammate Abigail Johnson to the service line. Johnson’s strong serving helped her team push the lead to 7-2. Goldbach made a kill from the outside right to break that run, but Central kept pushing, getting the next point and then making it 9-4 on a nifty cross-court kill by McMillen. For the next several points, West kept getting a play from Walker, only for the Lady Eagles to score in response. Finally, the Lady Eagles ran off six straight points, including another ace by Johnson, and forced West Stokes coach Jordan Stevens to call time-out down 21-9. Coe scored a block out of the break, but when the score got to 23-10, the Lady Cats finally started to growl. They won the next 10 in a row, with big plays by Lyza Addington and Goldbach leading the charge. It was the latter who did much of the damage, smashing an over-set and then putting on through a block to make it 23-19 before Coe hit one just wide to pull Stokes within 23-20. However, Central was out of its funk and back in system. Goins won the next rally to finally get the Lady Eagles to set point, and they won it on the next.
Set three went back-and-forth, with Caroline Philyaw beating Central with an on-two early on, Goldbach hitting more rockets, and Addington delivering an ace. West Stokes led for much of the set, with Central unable to do more than tie before falling behind again. The Lady Eagles finally took the lead at 19-18 when Goins made a return that West couldn’t return. However, the Cats didn’t fold, tying it at 19, 20 and 21, and then going up 22-21 when Emily Emerson hit a serve that hit the top of the net and trickled over. Tolbert immediately called time-out, and out of the break, Goins set Simpson for a tying kill. Furious action followed over the next few minutes, with Central saving a set point at 24-23 and then winning the next point as well. At 25-24 Central, Coe’s kill attempt went four inches long. Goins and then Simpson gave Central two more match points. West Stokes saved the first, but Walker’s kill attempt sailed long on the second.
“They actually scared me in that third set,” Tolbert said. “It was definitely a good set to watch. Both teams played hard and I’m just glad we were the winning team.”
The Lady Eagles return to action on Monday at East Surry, while West travels to Walkertown on Thursday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.