The Panther Creek volleyball team wants to make sure no one in the Southwest Wake Athletic Conference forgets about the Catamounts.
Fuquay-Varina, which came in with a gaudy 7-1 overall record, found out the hard way Tuesday night. After dropping the first set, PC roared back to score a 3-1 win, 21-25, 25-17, 25-21 and 25-21.
“We made it personal,” Catamount sophomore Emily Maggio said. “We really wanted to win, and we’re in our home gym. Many teammates of mine knew people on the other team, and we wanted to show them that even though they were 7-1, they’re not better than us because of their record.
“And we also needed to show everyone that even though we’ve had a rough time we can come back, and we’re still good and Panther Creek volleyball is a force to be reckoned with this year.”
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The SWAC is loaded with good teams, as demonstrated by the five-way tie for first coming into Tuesday’s matches. First-year coach Holly Fong was surprised by the competition in the conference, but her Catamounts (4-3, 2-2 SWAC) are still a big part of the race despite a slow start.
“We’re at a turning point,” Fong said. “Honestly, it’s going to be up to (my team) and what changes they latch on to and how invested they are. They’re all very coachable, and they want to win. Sometimes they get in their own head a little bit, and they’re their own worst enemy. But they’re doing good and making adjustments well.”
Fong made some adjustments to the PC lineup against the Bengals (7-2, 2-2) and continued to adjust after Fuquay’s Morgan Sonnendecker had eight kills and four service winners in a 25-21 first-set win for the Bengals.
Sonnendecker wasn’t nearly as effective in the final three sets, as PC altered its block and forced her to hit toward the middle of the court. Sydney Rush dug numerous Sonnendecker hits, and the Bengals didn’t have an answer.
“They made adjustments, but all we rely on is Morgan and Maddie Sonnendecker, our twins,” Bengals coach Jeff Pagel said. “We have nobody else who is stepping up on hitting. That’s our Achilles’ heel this year. We’ve been working on it in practice, we’ve been trying different things.”
A frustrated Pagel is looking for a presence in the middle of the court for his team.
“Our big thing is a mental game,” Pagel said. “If we can’t keep it mentally strong like we did last week against Green Hope, we look around, looking for somebody to step, and then nobody steps up.”
PC had a balanced attack as Maggio, Sarah Aukamp, Caitlyn Della and Stephanie Jewett were effective on the outside and inside, and freshman Alani Alderman had a solid game setting.
But defense made the difference against Fuquay.
“It’s a work in progress, playing defense around the block,” Fong said. “Our libero (Rush) is doing a great job making adjustments around the block, and having Heidi Ji in there as well helps balance it out.”