Graduation hit hard for many Southwest Wake Athletic Conference volleyball teams. Only five all-conference picks return.
SWAC champ Green Hope (17-5, 12-2) brings back a solid core led by senior middle blocker Allison O’Connor (162 kills, 48 blocks) and hitter Abby Kott (153 kills). Alexis Chaize and Allie Winiecki also return.
Apex (17-8, 10-4) finished second in the league but was the only SWAC team to reach the third round of the postseason. The Cougars were hit hard by graduation but do return seniors Jenna Dalbo, Western Carolina recruit Abigail Veit (74 kills in 17 games) and Breanna Andrea (85 kills). Junior Sunday Peoples led the team with 368 assists and sophomore Alyssa Hansen had a team-high 100 blocks.
Second-year coach Adrienne Core leads Middle Creek (15-7, 10-4), which tied Apex for second in the league and took the league’s 3-seed into the playoffs. The Mustangs placed middle blocker Sydney Sozio, now a senior, on the all-conference list. Senior Samantha Smith and junior Emily Durham also return.
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Fuquay-Varina (16-7, 8-6) had both Sonnendecker twins on the all-conference teams - with Morgan (305 kills, 71 aces) on first and Maddie (237 kills) on second. Kat Ellett, a senior, had a team-high 85 blocks.
Holly Springs (9-12, 6-8) loses some senior leadership. The Golden Hawks’ top returner is senior Maylnn Clark (101 kills, 113 blocks)
Raquel Rooney of Athens Drive (11-12, 5-9) is a UNC Wilmington recruit – in beach volleyball. She had 112 kills, tops among returners. Allison Lake added 110. Senior Sydney Yount returns as the team’s top defensive player (116 digs).
Wake Forest recruit Caitlyn Della was the only Panther Creek (7-10, 5-9) all-conference selection last year.
Cary (1-18, 0-14) is looking to bounce back from back-to-back one-win seasons.
In its first year of play, Apex Friendship will be led by coach Stephanie Bennett. The Patriots will not play a nonconference schedule.
Last 10 SWAC champs
2014: Green Hope
2011: Apex and Green Hope
2005: Athens Drive and Green Hope
SWAC state titles