Middle Creek’s volleyball team never could have pulled this off a year ago.
The Mustangs shook off a decisive first-game loss to intense rival Fuquay-Varina in the Bengals’ boisterous gym and took home a 3-1 win Thursday in Southwest Wake Athletic Conference play. The scores were 13-25, 25-21, 25-14 and 25-15.
“This is our biggest win,” said first-year Middle Creek coach Adrienne Core as her Mustangs finished the first round of conference play. “Beating Apex and Panther Creek was huge for us, but these girls hung together and fought like they have never fought before.
“We’re trying to make sure we can play for each other and have camaraderie, and they did just that. Every time somebody had a great dig, somebody else worked to get that same ball over the net for their teammate.”
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The SWAC has become known for rebuilding programs that have added depth to the long-standing talent at the top from perennial powers Green Hope and Apex. The logjam for third is now a pileup for second.
Fuquay-Varina (11-3, 4-3) was formerly alone in second place behind Green Hope (10-3, 6-1 SWAC), but Middle Creek (7-3, 4-3 SWAC) has forced a four-way tie along with Apex (7-5, 4-3 SWAC) and Athens Drive (9-5, 4-3 SWAC).
When the match started, Fuquay-Varina coach Jeff Pagel couldn’t have been happier as the Bengals were a buzzsaw in a 25-13 first-game victory. The first game was high-level volleyball with points scored on kills rather than opponent’s errors.
“We came to play today, but I think the fact that we won game one easily hurt us,” Pagel said. “We came out in the second game and played safe. They got all the momentum and completely took us out of the game.
“Our serve-receive, which is usually a strength of ours, was pretty bad. Our hitters usually move in for better shots, but they fell apart at the end. But credit Middle Creek. They took us apart. They were serving tough.”
Game four was tied 13-13 before Middle Creek’s Sydney Sozio recorded two kills and Isabelle Miller one of her three aces for the match to take a 17-13 advantage that the Mustangs commanded to the end.
Katie McCullough, a 5-foot-10 senior who played taller, led Middle Creek with 10 kills. Emily Durham, Ellie Alfers and Miller added seven kills each in a well-rounded performance.
“The biggest thing is we had to keep ourselves energized because they had a big crowd energizing them,” McCullough said. “We took it upon ourselves to play as a team and decided we can take anything that happens. This year we have more camaraderie.”
Morgan Sonnendecker led Fuquay-Varina with nine kills in addition to Maddie Sonnedecker’s eight.