PILOT MOUNTAIN — Officially, it was Senior Night for the East Surry volleyball team, but the seniors didn’t need to play all that much.
The newly-crowned Northwest 1A Conference champions honored seniors Bethany Clayton, Sarah Marion, Chelsea Tucker and Haley Noel for their contributions to Lady Cardinal volleyball, then ran through their entire roster in a lighthearted 25-9, 25-9, 25-7 non-conference rout of North Forsyth on Wednesday evening.
The Lady Cardinals, who were scheduled to wrap up the regular season the next night with a visit from NW1A cellar-dweller Winston-Salem Prep, reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Caleb Gilley. East Surry (20-2 overall) trailed just once in any set, that coming when the Lady Vikings, a member of the 3A Piedmont Triad Conference, took a 1-0 lead in the final set.
“This was one of those games where everyone gets to get in and play,” said Gilley. “We got to rest some starters saw some good things today from some kids who don’t get to play as much.”
Gilley knew that the Lady Vikings were unlikely to offer much of a challenge, even though his own players were still celebrating a win over arch-rival Mount Airy the day before that secured the conference title. He started all four seniors and watched them win six of the first seven points of the match. Some miscommunication, no doubt caused by the unusual lineup, allowed North Forsyth to close within 9-5. There was some controversy on the next point, as a result of a disagreement on whether or not an East Surry kill attempt had landed inbounds or not. After initially being ruled for the visitors, it was awarded to the Lady Cardinals instead.
Unfortunately for the visitors from Winston-Salem, this sent East’s Morgan Smith to the service line, and that was bad news for the Lady Vikings, who couldn’t handle the sophomore libero’s serve. She proceeded to serve three straight aces, and it wasn’t until they returned one and Forsyth middle hitter Danielle Baker got the better of Clayton that the run stopped at 14-6. However, the Lady Cardinals won serve back on the next point and Clayton mashed several balls in a set-ending 11-3 run.
Gilley spent the first half of set two shuttling players in and out on almost every rotation. East Surry held leads of 4-1 and 8-3, but Forsyth picked up two quick points and appeared to be ready to stay in the set until one of their players served it it into the net. The East coach then rotated in Tucker, whose ace percentage of 15.5 percent is among the best on the team. On cue, her delivery started causing the Lady Vikings all sorts of problems, and East went on a run to take control of the set. Midway through set two, Gilley seemed to settle on a lineup, and when the Lady Cardinals scored a side-out to lead 17-9, Kelsey Heflin went to serve and promptly served out the last eight points, finishing with an ace for another 25-9 set win.
In the third set, the visitors actually won the first point, and the Lady Cardinals were only up 5-4 when Marion sparked a run of three straight for East Surry. North Forsyth won the next two points, but East got a side out and then, with several reserves on the floor, won a long rally at 9-6 to go up by four, celebrating boisterously when the Lady Vikings hit a return wide. Allie Bruner won the next point for the Lady Cardinals, and Forsyth won just one more point the rest of the night. The match ended with Smith back on serve, serving out the final 10 points of the match with six aces.
This was originally planned to be East Surry’s final home match of the regular season, but scheduling issues at Prep meant that the teams will play two matches in the Cardinals’ gym today. The team will receive a bye in the opening round of next week’s conference tournament.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.