North Surry’s volleyball team faced a sort-of paradox on Tuesday, when the Lady Greyhounds honored Natalie Eaton, Emma Haynes, Evann Shelnutt and Camille Cartwright on Senior Night. The four ladies and their teammates are actually trying to ensure that the team’s 25-17, 25-13, 25-14 win over West Stokes will not, in fact, be the last home match for the seniors.
“We want to win (the Surry Central) match now and get into a tie for second,” said North head coach Shane Slate. “Whoever gets second in our league is going to get a first-round match at home in the playoffs, and that’s big. We always have something to play for.”
The Lady Hounds (12-8, 6-3 Western Piedmont Athletic Conference) no longer have a realistic chance of defending their nine straight WPAC regular-season titles, but they can still finish second in the league and be guaranteed a first-round home playoff match when the postseason begins in less than two weeks. To accomplish that, North needs to win out and get past county rival Surry Central for the No. 2 spot in the league. They travel to Dobson for a rematch with the Lady Eagles on Thursday, but first, the Lady Hounds had to beat West Stokes.
That proved little problem. North played some of its best volleyball of the season in dismissing the Lady Wildcats (6-13, 5-4 WPAC).
”We had a pretty good night tonight. I told the girls that I’m always glad to get a win on Senior Night,” said Slate. “The kids have put in a lot of time and it’s good to see them rewarded with a win. Everyone made more positive plays than negative plays tonight, and we were really relaxed.”
Set one featured some booming early serves from Cartwright that West Stokes had trouble receiving or even returning in three hits if it did. She served off a series of points that culminated in a block by Haynes and an 8-2 lead. The Cats then fought their way back into the set, winning seven of the next nine points to pull within one. However, North settled itself and got the offense going again. Eaton had a block of her own in a 5-0 run that featured an ace from Shelnutt and a play where Cartwright smashed a ball that West had dug back over the net. West’s Abby Walker finally got a side-out for her team at 15-10, but Cartwright answered right back for the Lady Hounds. North built the lead back to 20-14 on another ace by Cartwright, and forced Cats coach Jordan Stevens to call a time-out. West’s Blakeleigh Goldbach crushed a ball that the Lady Hounds’ Michaela Stone couldn’t dig, but Haynes answered that by crushing one through the block of Lyza Addington. West Stokes won just two more points the rest of the way, and set one ended on yet another block by Eaton.
Haynes served an ace on the fifth point of set two, putting North in front 3-2, and it never trailed again. A few minutes later, Goldbach had a block, only to see Delaney Fulk answer with one of her own on the next point. Then Fulk fooled the West defense, feigning a set for Eaton, only to back-set it for Cartwright, who was 12 feet away. She put it away for an 8-5 lead. The Lady Cats made another run and got within one again, but then Cartwright had another spike and Haynes had back-to-back rejections, one for a block and another on a ball that West failed to return in three hits. When Fulk delivered an ace moments later, North was on top 15-8 and Stevens was asking for time again.
It didn’t stop the Lady Hounds. The first point after the break saw another Wildcat dig go back over the net and Cartwright pounce on it for an easy point. Fulk eventually served her team to a commanding 19-8 lead. When West finally did get a side-out, North’s Hannah Moxley had two quick kills to put her team back on track, and it was just a matter of time.
Although the final score of the third set was a point closer, it was even more one-sided, with Ellie McHone at one point serving off 12 straight points before Goldbach got it back for her team. Emily Emerson followed with an ace, and the Lady Cats won a few more points after that, but it was too little, too late. North eventually won on its second match point with Jessi Shelnutt getting the kill.
The Lady Hounds dominated the match in all phases and played everyone, with Evann Shelnutt leading the team at eight kills. Cartwright had seven, with Jessi Shelnutt and Moxley each collecting four. Fulk led the team with 24 assists. Stone had 19 digs, Evann Shelnutt 15, Cartwright eight and Fulk seven. Cartwright had three of the team’s 10 aces.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.