PILOT MOUNTAIN — It’s another Red October in the Northwest 1A Conference.
East Surry’s volleyball team won its third straight conference title, and fourth in the last five years, with a 3-0 sweep of Bishop McGuinness in a Thursday evening “Dig Pink” match down in Kernersville. The win was the eighth in a row for the Lady Cardinals, the state’s second-ranked 1A team according to MaxPreps.com.
East Surry (16-4, 7-0 NW1A) leads every other team in the conference by three or more games in the loss column with three league matches remaining on the schedule. The best that either Mount Airy or South Stokes, tied for second at 5-3, could do is tie East for the league title. However, this would require East losing out, including a doubleheader with winless Winston-Salem Prep on Thursday.
It should be noted that the Lady Cardinals have not lost a conference match to anyone since September 1, 2016. They have won 26 straight, and two league tournament crowns to boot, during that time.
The streak actually began against Bishop, and the Villains (11-10, 1-6 NW1A) were no more of a match for East Surry last Thursday than they were two years ago. The Lady Cardinals swept the match 25-17, 25-15, 25-21. A five-set loss by Mount Airy to North Stokes played at the same time, coupled with the Lady Cards’ win, made East the 2018 NW1A champs.
East head coach Caleb Gilley used his entire roster in the win over Bishop, with his team racking up 10 blocks, including five by Maggie Holt and four from Emma Brown. Junior setter Ally McCraw, who hadn’t even projected as a starter at that position before the season began, had 40 assists to extend her state-leading total to 723. McCraw has 134 more assists than any other 1A player in the state.
However, McCraw isn’t the only Lady Cardinal who is leading the state in a major statistical category. East outside hitter Allie Bruner led her team with 17 kills in the win over Bishop. Those 17 kills put her in the state 1A lead with 290, nine more than Kayla Vanhoy of Starmount.
The elder Bruner is one of three Lady Cards in the state 1A top 10 in digs. She is eighth with 321, followed closely by No. 9 Morgan Smith (317) and No. 10 Anna-Kate Badgett (312). Holt leads the state’s 1A ranks with 116 blocks, with Smith and Bruner fourth and seventh in the state for service aces, respectively.
The win over the Villains was the third match in a four-match road trip for East since it last played at home. The Lady Cards beat the North Wilkes Vikings 25-13, 25-19, 25-17 on the first day of October, then traveled to North Stokes the next day and sunk another set of Vikings, 25-15, 25-11, 24-26, 25-16. Allie Bruner continued to make her case as the NW1A’s top player with 17 kills, 24 digs and five blocks. Kylie Bruner had a dozen kills, and McCraw had 44 assists.
The road trip ends on Tuesday, when the Lady Cardinals travel to Mount Airy. The twinbill at home against Prep on Thursday concludes East’s regular season. The Lady Cardinals are effectively playing to maintain their No. 2 MaxPreps rating at this point, which would ensure them of homecourt throughout the postseason, since top-ranked Louisburg plays in the East.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.