DURHAM — The finest three-year era in Fuquay-Varina volleyball came to an end, but fittingly it was with the Bengals playing their best match of the season before falling to state power Durham Riverside.
The Pirates had to rally from a 2-1 deficit in games to pull out a 3-2 victory in the second round of the NCHSAA playoffs Tuesday night in their own gym. The scores were 20-25, 25-22, 18-25, 25-23 and 15-4.
“That’s the best Fuquay has played,” Bengals coach Jeff Pagel said. “It was a great season and a great ride. These girls have been my family from Aug. 1 until now. It’s hard.”
It was hard to see the season come to an end, but not hard to accept considering how the Bengals pushed Riverside to the end.
“I was a lot nervous about this game,” said Riverside coach Michael Hodge. “Jeff is a good coach, and they have the goods. That’s a very good team.”
The scare that was thrown into the Pirates was evident after Fuquay took a 2-1 lead in games. Riverside’s 6-foot-3 Mone Jones’ implored her teammates in the huddle, “We are NOT losing in our house!”
Fuquay was on the verge of winning when it took a 18-15 lead in Game 4, but a service error led to 6-1 Riverside run.
“We came out strong and then played a little soft in the second game,” Pagel said. “We came back in the third game and played strong in the fourth game but lost it at the end.”
Riverside’s Rachel Kallianos and Zariya Thomas led the Pirates with 21 kills each. Jones contributed six blocks – a couple seemingly with her elbows -- in what is her secondary sport. Basketball recruiters from Georgia Tech and Virginia were in the gym to see Jones, who is ranked in the Class of 2015 the No. 10 forward in the nation and No. 44 player overall.
Fuquay-Varina seniors Abby Findley, Alex Barnett and Saraya Klink have now passed the torch to a young cast that includes sophomores Morgan and Maddie Sonnendecker, juniors Hannah and Kayla Dadisman and junior Sydney Price.
Maddie Sonnendecker led the Bengals with 10 kills. Klink added eight kills with seven blocks.
Hodge, the Pirates’ eighth-year head coach, said his hitters had to adjust their kills throughout the night against Klink’s blocks.
Riverside volleyball is hallowed ground in North Carolina.
In the trophy case outside the gym, a display celebrates the career of Riverside legend Megan Hodge. Michael Hodge’s daughter led Penn State to three straight NCAA titles from 2007 to 2009 and now plays professionally in China.