In front of a strong home crowd, the Apex volleyball snagged momentum early en route to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-19) victory over Leesville Road in the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs and a trip to the second round.
Apex captain Natalie White thinks the Cougars could make the longest run they’ve had in her three years on campus.
“With the intensity … we’re trying to push and focus one game at a time, but we’re hoping we can pull it out this year,” White said. “We’re really deep this year, we have 18 on the roster and I honestly think a lot of us whoever is on the court do do what we need to do. The chemistry is just so strong.”
Being seeded right next to each other, Leesville ninth and Apex eighth, neither team expected the clean sweep that occurred.
“We were expecting a close game,” White said. “we wanted to go out there as tough as we could, expecting a fight, but we’re very pleased.”
Leesville coach Erin Hensler echoed that belief.
“We came in a little overconfident, I think we came in thinking this match was going to be a little bit easier for us and when we realized it wasn’t going to be like that, we had a hard time adjusting,” she said. “We couldn’t step our game up to the level Apex was at, they came ready.”
Apex ran out to a 6-0 lead in the first set before a kill from Daniela McDonald stalled the run.
After allowing the Pride to jump out to a 4-1 lead in the second set, the Cougars came back and didn’t trail for the reminder of the night, earning a visit to undefeated D.H. Conley Thursday night after Madeline Rudd’s final kill sealed the deal.
Leesville only graduates four players from a team that won 15 games during the regular season, giving the program optimism when looking on to next year.
“The outlook for the future is really strong for our program,” Hensler said. “The majority of the time, we play with five sophomores on the court, and I don’t think any other team, maybe in the state, can say that. Our sophomores and juniors are really strong and are developing at a really quick pace … and it’s only going to lead to stronger years ahead.”
Sophomore Daniela McDonald kept the Pride in striking distance during the night with her aggressive offensive play.