PILOT MOUNTAIN — After his team finished the Rivals United Dig Pink showcase with a straight-set victory over East Surry, Shane Slate said that revenge hadn’t been on his volleyball players’ minds when they took on two county rivals who had beaten them early in the season.
It may not have been spoken, but it was certainly exacted.
The Lady Hounds, who are on their way to another Western Piedmont Conference championship this season, evened the score on host East Surry in the final match of the day-long event pitting Surry County’s four high school teams. North Surry, which lost its season opener to the Lady Cardinals on Aug. 20, captured a 25-19, 25-16, 25-17 victory in the rematch. This came after sweeping Mount Airy to avenge another loss.
“We really didn’t talk about (revenge),” said the North Surry coach. “We’re thinking about the playoffs, and seeding so we can play at home. If we’re fortunate enough to win the conference this week, winning these two matches was important so that we wouldn’t slip down the bracket.”
The Hounds certainly accomplished that. Their two wins improved the team’s overall record to 15-7. They still have two conference matches remaining this week — at home against South Stokes on Tuesday and at Forbush on Thursday — and only need to win one to clinch the title outright. More importantly from Slate’s point of view, his team has now won 11 consecutive matches against opponents who play at the 3-A level or below.
North Surry took control of this match midway through the first set and then never let go. After the teams played to a 12-12 tie to open play, the Hounds took the lead on a bad serve and then went up by two, 17-15, after another service error by the Cardinals. Four straight points followed for North Surry, including a pair of aces from junior libero Maggie Hawks. From there, the Hounds cruised to the win.
East Surry got off to a strong start in the second set, winning six of the first eight points. However, the Cardinals were unable to hold their lead.
Mikaela Johnson, hitting from near the back line, was able to put two points away, and an ace served by Anna Martin helped forge a 7-7 tie. The teams were tied again at 9, but then North Surry ran off eight of the next nine points for a commanding 17-10 lead before East’s Sarah Marion got the better of Martin at the net to end the spree. East held its own for the next few minutes, staying within six points, but twice served the ball into the net after scoring a point.
The set ended with Arin Bunker serving an ace and then Johnson putting another one away for the victory.
Set three was more of the same, with the Hounds reeling off seven of the first eight points and pushing their lead to 10 points when Tyra Galloway smashed an over-set ball back across the net for a 17-7 lead. The Cardinals did manage a small rally, getting to 18-13 after Tara Beck similarly scored a kill off an over-set.
At this point, Slate called time-out to steady his team, and North Surry responded Galloway putting away the next two points. Marion answered for East, but time was running out. When Dixie Fulk earned her 25th assist of the match by setting up Bunker for a kill, it was 23-17 and the Hounds could smell victory. Johnson put a ball off the back of a Cardinal for match point, and Martin served an ace to clinch it.
“We’ve gotten a lot better since we first played them,” Slate said. “We’re serving a lot better, and we don’t make as many unforced errors.”
The Cardinals, now 12-10 on the season, finish up their regular season next week on the road at Forbush on Monday and at Mount Airy on Thursday.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.