The North Surry volleyball team was still celebrating Tuesday night’s victory over arch-rival Mount Airy when they returned to the court less than 24 hours later.
Starmount came in looking to crash the party on Wednesday, and they nearly did, letting large leads slip away in sets one and two before finally outlasting the Lady Hounds in the third. Finally, North Surry woke up and put away a 25-23, 25-23, 30-32, 25-14 victory.
“Our heads just weren’t in the match,” said North Surry head coach Shane Slate. “We had 24 hitting errors, a bunch of service errors, and our passing just wasn’t as strong. We were just not reading and moving the way we needed to. I think we took a step forward last night, and tonight, initially, I didn’t think we did that.
“We’ve had a long-standing rivalry with Starmount, and we really expected this to be a contested match, and it was. I thought we were flat and didn’t play as well early as we were capable of. We didn’t play in system enough tonight.”
North Surry (5-1) knew to expect a tough battle from the Lady Rams, whose 1-4 record is misleading in that they have suffered close losses against four very strong teams so far this season, falling at Forbush and Mount Airy and at home to East Surry despite winning a set against each of those teams. They got exactly what they expected when Starmount came out clicking on all cylinders and built an early 17-10 lead in set one thanks to quality play from Maggie Freed and Kayla Vanhoy and some unforced errors on the part of the flat Lady Hounds.
A block at the net by Mikaela Johnson finally swung things in North Surry’s favor. Martha Holt put a ball off Starmount’s Abbey Johnson to win a long rally, and then clawed their way back to 17-15 as Dixie Fulk served an ace. The teams seesawed for a few points before Holt served an ace to tie the set at 20. The Lady Rams won the next two points, but then Kaylee Freed hit two winners for the home team, the second off a nifty set from Fulk to put the home team ahead 23-22. Starmount’s only point the rest of the way came on a service error.
Set two play to an almost identical script. Starmount came out hot and North Surry again played discombobulated volleyball way too often, resulting in the Lady Rams rolling to a 17-11 lead on the back of Freed. This time, it was Holt who turned the tables for the Lady Hounds. She scored off a dump shot away from the Starmount attackers, then took serve and immediately delivered an ace. From there, North Surry reeled off 10 straight points to take the lead before the Lady Rams rallied on a kill by Johnson followed by an ace from Freed. Arin Bunker responded with an ace and a kill for North Surry, and then an unforced error gave the Lady Hounds set point. Starmount scored three in a row to cut the deficit to 24-23, but then lost the set on a service error.
In set three, Starmount staved off three match points as the teams battled through several extra points. This time, it was North who took the early lead at 13-9, only to see the visitors roar back and move in front. Freed played brilliantly for the Lady Hounds down the stretch as they battled back to tie the score at 20 and then at 22 and 23. Then North earned match point at 24-23 when Fulk beat Johnson at the net, but Starmount held it off. Starmount had four set points and North Surry three match points before the Lady Rams finally won the set on a hitting error.
“They woke us up when they beat us in that third set,” said Slate. “They should have beaten us in one of those first two sets, the way we played. It took losing one to wake us up.”
In set four, the teams were tied 6-6 when Freed made a big block at the net and then Starmount committed three consecutive unforced errors. Freed followed with another kill and then Fulk rejected a Lady Ram at the net to make it 13-6. A service error broke the run, but then North got hot again and built the lead to 23-10 following three straight service aces by Whitney Hall. Starmount held off defeat with four straight points of their own, but then a bad serve followed by a hitting error ended the match.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.