Fuquay-Varina no pushover despite sweep by longtime powerhouse Apex

CorrespondentSeptember 3, 2013 

— Memo to Fuquay-Varina High sports historians:

It’s time to research the last time when the Bengals beat Apex’s dynastic volleyball program.

Fuquay-Varina coach Jeff Pagel is preoccupied with building a program, but in anticipation of Tuesday’s match between No. 5-ranked Fuquay and No. 3 Apex at the Bengals’ gym, a quick search revealed Apex’s streak over the Bengals dates back to at least to 2005.

As the N&O rankings indicate, Fuquay-Varina is ready to challenge its long-time conference neighbor in its latest reincarnation known as the SWAC, although the sweep Apex (3-1) claimed over Fuquay-Varina (6-1) didn’t indicate the competitiveness of the showdown.

The first two games were back-and-forth until Apex won in the three games 25-19, 27-25 and 21-15.

“We knew they have a strong team this year and we had to be prepared for them,” said Apex’s Ally Beckman, a junior who already has committed to Georgia Tech. “They have a lot of seniors and talented sophomores. We had some awesome practices to get ready for them.”

In Game 1, Apex had to rally from a 14-10 deficit against a highly charged group of Bengals supported by a throng of students dressed in black T-shirts with orange letters. Even when Apex reasserted itself with a 9-1 run for a 19-14 lead, Fuquay battled back to score two of three points at 23-19 before finally falling.

In Game 2, Fuquay had Apex on the ropes with a 25-24 lead, but Apex rallied with three straight points that had the Cougars leaping from their seats in enthusiasm rarely generated in past one-sided Fuquay matches. Sophomore Abeigal Veit put away a midcourt kill for 26-25 lead and then an ace served by Chelsey Gelston ended the pivotal game.

“They’re improving every year,” Apex coach Emily Regan said. “The games could have gone either way. Even though it says 3-0 in the paper, these were close games. They have some good players. I was really impressed with their No. 2 (Alex Barnett).”

Fuqay might have been expected to fold after Game 2 with the emotional letdown, but they stayed in Game 3. They took a lead until it was tied at 15 and the Cougars reeled off 10 straight points to clinch the sweep.

“We’ve been building this program,” Pagel said. “We’re a more balanced team. We’ve been a good team on defense and defense has kept us in matches. Now we have some offense to put away the ball. We’re a better team and they want to win.”

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