APEX — Apex senior Megan Hooks could tell Holly Springs was poised to play a decisive fifth game against the Cougars in their second meeting of the year in volleyball Thursday.
Hooks, who finished with a team-high 20 kills, simply refused to let that happen, scoring the Cougars’ last four points to lead Apex past the Golden Hawks 25-23 for a 3-1 victory.
Holly Springs (12-5, 10-3), which won the opening game 25-20, was hoping to force a three-way Tri-Nine tie with the Cougars and Green Hope.
The Hawks, who won for the first time ever against Green Hope earlier this year, are still winless against Apex. The Cougars (14-3, 13-1) swept the season series with a 3-0 win last month.
“Our girls have had success the past two years and are reaching their potential,” said Holly Springs coach Jennifer Ivanoff. “The team unity and their communication with one another is a lot better, we just need for everything to fall into place.”
The Golden Hawks came close in the fourth game but couldn’t overcome the serving and finesse shots of Brianna Belicic and Hooks’ powerful kills.
“We got really pumped for this game,” said Belicic, who finished with 13 kills and four aces. “Meg is the one who puts it down, and I mix in the softer shots.”
Hooks said it was challenging getting shots past Holly Springs junior Kaelyn Dyson, who notched 14 kills and seven blocks.
Apex won the second game easily, 25-12, and then took the third 25-20.
Anna Patrick scored clutch points for the Cougars in the third and fourth games, shifting momentum when it seemed the Hawks were ready to overtake Apex.
“We knew coming in that this would not be an easy 3-0 match,” Apex coach Emily Regan said. “Our girls had to stay focused on staying calm and confident, especially after the first game.”
The Hawks were also paced by sophomores Jaclyn Brewington (eight kills, four aces) and Mackenzie Reaves (seven kills).
Preliminary brackets set
The N.C. High School Athletic Association released preliminary brackets for this year’s volleyball playoffs, which begin Oct. 20. The playoffs are not seeded as in basketball and football; instead, each automatic and wild-card bid is assigned spots in the tournament field. Teams can already get an idea of who they’ll play.
The Tri-Nine’s top three seeds will host first-round games. The conference champ will play the fourth seed from the Durham-based PAC-6, while No. 2 hosts the fourth team of the Raleigh-based Cap-8.
The third Tri-Nine team hosts the third from the PAC-6, while the fourth plays at No. 2 PAC-6 and the fifth squad travels to the Cap-8 champ.