MOUNT AIRY — It’s quite common for both fans and opponents of the Forbush High School athletic teams to refer to the Falcons as “Bush” for short.
On Tuesday night, the Bush’s volleyball team did something that hadn’t been done since a Bush was president.
“This is my first year coaching, and I knew they had never beaten (North Surry). That was my goal for them. This was not our strongest game, but we had a lot of mental toughness and we fought through it,” said Forbush coach Taylor Carangi of her team after it claimed a 24-26, 25-21, 27-25, 25-16 victory at Ron King Gym. “It wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done.”
North Surry had not lost a conference match since Oct. 15, 2008, when then-league rival Starmount topped the Lady Greyhounds in five sets. Over the next 3,611 days, North Surry won 116 consecutive conference matches and nine straight conference championships.
Now, for the first time in a decade, the Lady Hounds and head coach Shane Slate are the hunters, rather than the hunted.
“Forbush had a good team last year, and they only graduated one player, so I knew we had our work cut out for us,” said Slate. “They kept up a lot of pressure hitting the ball, and serving the ball. They’re a good team, and we’re just not there yet. Can we get there? We certainly can.”
Although the MaxPreps.com power ratings strongly favored Forbush (7-2, 2-0 Western Piedmont 2A) coming into the match, North Surry had its chances to keep the streak alive. The Lady Hounds actually saved two set points in the opening set and came back to win it, were tied 20-all in set two at one point, and had a set point in the third set as well. The visitors wouldn’t take control of the match until the last set, when they won 12 of the final 15 points.
”We were kind of nervous about playing them, but we got comfortable in that fourth set and showed how well we play together,” said Carangi. “They believed they could win, and it showed.”
Although few if any of the players were aware of how long it had been since North Surry had taken a conference loss, both teams realized how important this match was for the conference title, and there were a lot of of the types of mistakes that come with nervousness. There were several mini-runs by both sides, but it was rare for either team to have more than a three-point lead in any set until right to the end.
The Lady Hounds’ best chance came at the end of set three, which they had led 19-16 at one point before Forbush’s Colby Crater, Parkley Hennings and Camryn Doub combined for three kills and a service ace to put the Lady Falcons back ahead by a point. The teams were tied at 20, 21 and 22, with North twice giving Forbusha point by serving the ball into the net. Finally, Forbush’s Nikita Sizemore won a long rally to get her team set point at 24-23, but a miscommunication on the next point allowed a ball to hit the floor, and then North’s Olivia Jones delivered a service ace that gave her team the set point at 25-24.
Crater saved the match point by finding an open spot on the floor and scoring off a dink shot. At 25-all and palpable tension in the gym, a long rally in which both teams played impressive defense ended with Crater smashing a kill to tie the score again. Forbush then took the set, and the 2-1 lead, when Evann Shelnutt was just out of bounds on a return shot.
The fourth set was do or die for the home team, and they played like it early on. After the teams split the first eight points, an ace by Cathryn Prim and a kill from Crater moved the Lady Falcons ahead. Then Hennings, Forbush’s powerful six-foot outside hitter, got a chance. Two perfect sets to Hennings on the outside left resulted in rocket shots that the Lady Hound defense couldn’t handle and a 9-6 lead for the visitors.
Even so, North didn’t fold. The Lady Hounds actually battled back with strong defense, on-the-money setting from Delaney Fulk and hits from Emma Haynes and Camille Cartwright. The home team went back in front 13-12 before Hennings struck again. She swung away and tied the set. Forbush took the lead when North hit a ball off the room and couldn’t play it, and then Hennings played a ball off her back row and put it an inch inside the Hounds’ back line to make it 15-13.
Now momentum, and a bit of history, were on the side of the team in navy blue and red. Back-to-back aces by libero Ebony Williams made it 18-13, and then it was Crater’s turn to swing away, scoring back-to-back kills to make it 20-13. Natalie Eaton and Evann Shelnutt made a few plays down the stretch, but there was no stopping the Lady Falcons, who got another kill from Crater and from Hennings as they played the set out.
“We were basically good for three sets tonight, but when push came to shove, we didn’t respond,” said Slate.
North Surry (5-5, 2-1 WPAC) trailed 24-22 in the opening set after Hennings won a long rally and Crater served an ace to make it 24-22, but Cartwright saved the first set point and Hannah Moxley the next when she blocked Hennings. At 24-all, Cartwright slammed down an over-hit, and Hennings hit it long on set point for North.
Forbush won the first three points of the second set, but the Lady Hounds came roaring back on strong setting from Fulk coupled with hitting by Eaton and Cartwright. The lead seesawed in the middle of the set, with the score tied at 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 20. Finally, at 20-all, Crater delivered a serve that North Surry couldn’t handle, and the Lady Hounds were unable to catch up again. Laiken Baity scored from the outside left to make it 23-21 and then served an ace for set point. Evann Shelnutt had a chance to keep it going, but hit it just long on the attack.
The Lady Hounds led for most of set three, usually going up a point or two and then watching Forbush tie it up. They appeared to be taking control when they went up 19-16, their biggest lead since it was 5-2, but then Forbush reeled off four straight points to lead the set for the first me.
Complete stars were not available for Forbush, although Crater led the team in kills with a strong kill percentage, and got excellent defensive efforts from Williams, Baity and Prim. For North Surry, Cartwright had 14 kills with a .306 percentage. Evann Shelnutt had 10 kills and Eaton five. Fulk had 30 assists, with Michaela Stone leading the team defensively at 14 digs. Cartwright had 11 and Fulk 10.
In the JV match, the teams went the three-set distance and Forbush also claimed victory there, taking the match 17-15 in the final set after staving off four match points by the Lady Hounds.
The Lady Falcons will host Surry Central (6-6, 3-0) on Thursday in another battle for first place in the WPAC, while North will visit West Stokes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.