DOBSON — After hitting a brief slump earlier this month, it looks like the Surry Community College volleyball team is back on track as the regular season enters its stretch run.
After starting the season 19-3, the Knights hit a snag during a six-match road trip during Region X play and dropped three in a row between Oct. 10 and 15, including a straight-set defeat to a Brunswick team Surry swept earlier in the season.
They finally ended the losing streak and claimed their 20th win on Saturday at Wake Tech, but the Knights still looked shaky in dropping a set to a team that it defeated 3-0 in their previous meeting.
A return to their home court on Thursday evening finally set things right. On a night where Surry and visiting Guilford Tech both wore special uniforms for “Dig Pink” night, the Knights honored four departing sophomores and rolled to a 25-12, 25-17, 25-10 straight-set victory.
Surry (21-6) didn’t even seem to get warmed up until the final set, when they scored the first nine points and frustrated the Titans several times with a tenacious effort on the defensive end. The Knights won every set going away, but played in spurts during the first two and handed Guilford several free points on service errors.
“We had a lot going on with it being Sophomore Night,” said coach Jan Marion-Kiser. “We also had a player with a death in the family tonight, so we were down a player. But tonight was all about the sophomores.”
The four second-year players, outside hitter Haley Hartman, setter Kaitlin Kidd (a Surry Central grad), utility specialist Karli Bullins, and middle hitter Sidney Shelton, were all honored prior to hitting the floor for their final regular-season home match.
Things started off well, as Surry pulled out to an early 7-2 lead in spite of a long delay right after things got under way. The Titans took advantage of a few mistakes by the Knights and closed to within 11-8, but then the hosts began to regain control.
Hartman finished off a long rally with a kill for an 18-11 lead, and then Cassidy Palmer served an ace that seemed to break Guilford’s spirit. The Titans won just one more point before former East Surry Cardinal Jessi Marion finished off the set with a kill.
Set two was almost a repeat, with Surry going on an early 7-1 run and then Guilford (7-13) clawing back on some inconsistent play. It was 12-11 when Kidd alertly tipped a ball over the net and saved a point for the Knights. She made a clean kill on the next rally and the hosts were off and running again, on a 6-0 run that was capped by Kidd spiking a ball off a would-be defender and then Cheyenne Kota (East Surry) scoring a kill of her own.
Over the next few minutes, the three former Cardinals Kacie Markle, Marion and then Kota scored kills before an unforced error gave their team the set win.
North Surry graduate Morgan Hawks served the first nine points of set three, in which the Knights finally hit their stride and completely dominated play.
Guilford, which had a pair of imposing middle hitters in Latoya Cuthrell and Ciara Norris, found itself unable to defend Surry’s counterattacks. Hawks, Palmer and Bullins were all over the floor, denying the Titans any points while setting up several for their teammates.
Perhaps the highlight came at the end of the rally that gave the Knights match point. With Palmer serving at 23-10, Kota took a set and hammered a ball over the net into the hands of Norris. The ball was delivered with such force that it came off Norris and rocketed back into the Surry end of the court, landing just beyond the out-of-bounds line. Palmer served an ace on the next point and the match was won.
“They have improved a lot since the first time we played them,” said Marion-Kiser. “I’m glad we were able to take the win in three sets. This was a fun game for us.”
The Knights hit the road again Saturday for a noon match at Spartanburg Methodist College.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.