For almost two months, Apex junior hitter Abigail Veit sat on the sidelines with a high ankle sprain while her team adjusted to her absence.
What has happened since Saturday has been the Cougars’ best-case scenario.
Apex defeated conference rival Green Hope on Tuesday, winning 3-0 (25-22, 27-25, 25-16) to advance to the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
The Cougars had been steadily improving without Veit, so her return just added to what the team had already become. She had 19 kills in her second game back from injury.
“I always believe everything happens for a reason,” Apex coach Emily Whitsett said. “I’m comfortable with everyone on the court.”
Whitsett added that Veit had a great game, but “I don’t think it’s her best. I think we’re only going to get better from here.”
Fifth-seed Green Hope (17-5) had denied No. 12 seed Apex (17-7) the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference title to stop a six-year streak by the Cougars. The Falcons won 3-0 and 3-1 during the regular season.
“Green Hope can have conference, we’ll take states,” Veit said.
Apex senior Ally Beckman had seven kills and came up big on defense by adjusting to the tip shots Green Hope succeededwith early. Teammate Hannah Hepburn had six kills and Jenna Dalbo had four.
In the first game, Apex’s Sunday Peoples served five straight points to take a late lead it did not relinquish.
In the second, Green Hope had match point twice – at 24-22 and 25-24 – but Apex took the last three points.
Green Hope’s struggles with serve receive were manifested in the third game as the Cougars rolled by scoring eight of the last nine points.
It was the last game for Falcons senior starters Margot Ruffieux (10 kills) and Haley Bidgood (12 kills).
Abby Kott and Allison O’Connor had five kills apiece for Green Hope.
“We had a great season, we just didn’t do what we needed on our side of the court in terms of serve-receive,” Falcons coach Karl Redelfs said. “It just came down to getting into that hole on serve-receive. Our passing wasn’t as good as it should have been – and up until now, it’s been phenomenal.”
Apex will travel to No. 4-seed Hoggard High in Wilmington on Thursday for the third round.