Finding an upward path in the deep and talented Southwest Wake Athletic Conference volleyball standings is no easy task, but Athens Drive is finding a way.
The Jaguars bounced back from a five-game loss to Fuquay-Varina on Tuesday to sweep Cary 25-9, 25-16, 25-16 Wednesday afternoon at Cary’s gym.
How hard is it to find breathing space in the SWAC?
Entering Wednesday’s competition, four schools were 3-3 in conference play. They trailed 5-1 Green Hope and 4-2 Fuquay-Varina.
“We were bummed out from Tuesday after losing a few breaks,” Athens Drive senior Kendall Yount said. “So were really wanted play well to take this match and help us out (in the standings).”
The loss to Fuquay left Athens Drive in a logjam with three-loss teams instead of second place behind Green Hope, but the win over Cary climbed the Jaguars to 4-3 in league play and 9-5 overall.
Athens Drive isn’t one of those programs with a perennial place in The News & Observer’s area rankings, but the Jags have a residence this year at No. 9.
“We’re a really good team because we work well together,” Yount said. “We don’t have any individual players that stand out. We just really play well together.”
Yount, in her role as a senior and team captain, was particularly proud of how the Jaguars didn’t let the loss to Fuquay-Varina distract them and result in a upset by looking past Cary, which dropped to 1-11 overall and 0-7 conference.
“I really liked how we came together after the loss,” Young said. “We really, really wanted to win.”
Yount only stands 5-foot-7, but she led the Jaguars with nine kills and five aces. She can play the whole court as indicated by two back-row kills in the second and third games when Cary was trying to hang close to the Jaguars.
Sophomore Allie Lake added seven kills and senior Morgan Cheek three aces.
Emily Smith is in her first year as varsity head coach after joining the program last year as the JV coach.
“We have a great dynamic this year,” Smith said. “We think we have talent and we all work together as a team. You can have all the talent in the world, but when you have teamwork that we have, that’s what’s making the difference. The teamwork has bonded the girls and that’s helped us put our talent to the best use possible for a good outcome.”
Athens Drive was a buzzsaw in the first game when the Jaguars won 25-9, but Cary kept the second and third games competitive into double figures before succumbing. Cary trailed only 15-11 in the third game before the Jaguars ran of 5-of-6 points for a comfortable 20-12 advantage.
Veteran Cary coach Philip Goodloe cited the play of senior Rachel Fleming.
“She has really stepped up and surprised me with her play this year,” he said.
“We’re vertically challenged like we are every year, but I want the girls to play hard and to have fun. They’re doing that.”