For a time, it looked like Mount Airy was going to romp to its second volleyball win of the season. Then Surry Central made them fight for it.
The Lady Bears did pull out the win, but not before head coach Chuck Morris had a few headaches when the visiting Lady Eagles were one point away from taking the match to a fifth set. Mount Airy won the last three points of set four and took the match win, 25-19, 25-13, 23-25, 27-25.
Central, which lost a five-set match in its season opener to Wilkes Central two days earlier, fell behind for the second straight match, only to come back and make things interesting. The Lady Bears (2-1) outlasted their guests in set one and dominated the second set, in which Central appeared flat and was never really competitive. However, the Lady Eagles woke up quickly in set three.
Morris opened the third set with a different lineup than he’d used in the first two, and Surry Central capitalized, jumping out to a quick 4-1 lead. Mount Airy responded with a 9-3 run and led 10-7, but couldn’t pull away. With the score 16-11, the Lady Eagles’ Ashley Hall sparked a rally when she hit a winner off a Lady Bear block attempt. Hall then stepped back to the service line and delivered an ace to make it 16-13, then another one that made it 16-15. Central surged ahead at 17-16 after Tara Blevins angled a shot away from a would-be blocker.
The rest of the set was a dogfight. The score was tied at 17, 19, 20, 22 and 23. At 23-all, Central’s Jenna Simpson earned a block, and then Blevins closed it out with a kill on the next point.
“We just had some serving and blocking errors we didn’t need to have,” Morris said.
Morris opened set four in his regular rotation, but Central still took an early 4-1 lead. Mount Airy won the next four points, but back-to-back kills by Mia McMillen put the visitors back in front. The teams traded points until Piper Draughon and Hannah Williams scored back-to-back kills from the outside right to make it 11-9. From there, the Lady Bears held Central at bay for the next several minutes, getting the lead up to 17-13 and forcing Lady Eagle head coach Brittany Tolbert to call a time-out.
“We sort of lost focus at about 18, 19 points. We had a couple of mental errors that weren’t acceptable,” said Morris. “I did not want to go five sets.”
Central took advantage of their opponents’ lapses.
Madison Goins stepped up for Tolbert’s team, hitting a winner off Draughon, who was playing one of the best matches of her career, then served back-to-back aces — the second out of a time-out by Morris — that tied the set at 22. After Mount Airy got a point to go back ahead, Goins had another winner, and following a hitting error by the hosts, Central served for the set at 24-23.
Mount Airy’s Hanne Cooke saved the set with a kill of her own, but Simpson won the next one and Central had a second set point. Again, Cooke made the play after some outstanding defense by her side. This sent Elizabeth Heck to the serving line for the Lady Bears, and the end was almost anticlimactic. She delivered two serves in a row that Central had difficulty handling and couldn’t get into their system against. With that, the Lady Bears claimed the win.
Mount Airy led 7-3 in the first set and never trailed. Central got within a single point a number of times, but was never able to tie or take the lead. At 14-12, Draughon had back-to-back kills from the outside left spot, and then another after a side-out by the Lady Eagles. Central made one more run, but Hannah Williams got the better of Simpson to make it 19-16, and Mount Airy was stronger down the stretch.
The Lady Bears scored the first five points of the second set, and Tolbert called a time-out with the score at 7-2, but it didn’t help. Mount Airy ran out to a 15-5 lead, and only some strong play by Central’s Jordyn Coe kept the score from getting embarrassing for the visitors, who fell into a 2-0 hole in sets.
Mount Airy was paced by highly efficient play from Draughon (10 kills with just two attack errors), Kalie Mabe (just one attack error), and sophomore setter Brooke Lankford, who had to run the offense throughout due to an injury to Avery Cox.
“Kalie hit over .300 tonight, and I thought Brooke did a really nice job of handling the offense, I was really proud of her,” said Morris.
The Lady Bears will host Alleghany on Tuesday, while Central will look for its first victory on Saturday at West Forsyth.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.