APEX — Abby Findley wanted to make a difference in Fuquay-Varina’s volleyball image when she was promoted to the varsity team as a sophomore with classmates Alex Barnett and Saraya Klink.
“We were tired of hearing about Fuquay’s bad reputation in volleyball,” Findley said. “We knew it would take a lot of work, but we were determined to change the mindset.”
How’s this for a metamorphosis?
A little after 5:30 p.m. Thursday for a match at Middle Creek, Fuquay-Varina fans began to filter into the Mustangs’ gym and fill as many seats as the home team.
There weren’t as many fans dressed in distinctive orange T-shirts with black lettering as at home matches, but there was a presence nonetheless, to see one of the conference’s top teams.
What they saw was Fuquay-Varina sweep Middle Creek 25-13, 25-13 and 25-14. The Bengals (10-2, 5-2 SWAC) are a long way from their cellar-dweller days and remain in the upper half of the conference standings en route to a playoff berth.
Findley is the 5-fooot-3 spitfire – clapping, high-fiving and urging her teammates on from start to finish of each game – but she and head coach Jeff Pagel prefer to see her as one of a tight trio with fellow seniors Barnett and Klink.
Pagel has coached Findley as a libero, Clark as a setter and Klink as a middle since they were freshmen on the JV team in 2010. His first move when promoted to varsity head coach in 2011 was to bring them up with him.
“Abby is a great leader on and off the court,” Pagel said. “She takes charge of the defense. She rallies the girls in the back with her. With her leading the defense, I know I can focus on coaching the offense.”
In the Middle Creek match, the Bengals were fortunate: two back-and-forth 25-23 games went their way. Middle Creek started the third game with a 2-0 lead, but there was no chance of a comeback once Findley took her turn at serve. She ran off nine straight points as she mixed hard top-spins and floaters; three were aces.
Findley’s serve is a product of hours of banging balls off her family home’s garage door since she fell in love with the sport as a sixth-grader at a camp.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in that driveway,” Findley said. “As a libero, serving is the only time for me to contribute on offense.”
When volleyball rules were modified to include a libero, Findley could have served as the prototype. Her play has been a clinic on how there is a spot to be had on the court even for 5-foot-3 girls.
“Whenever I’m coaching (younger girls), I always pick out the smallest girls and tell them your height doesn’t matter,” Findley said. “If you have energy and determination, you can play this game.”
Findley’s love affair with volleyball will continue in college at Campbell University, where she can maintain her orange-and-black wardrobe as the school colors are the same at the Buies Creek campus. She committed last summer and plans to study pharmacy while playing for the Camels.
“I always set goals for myself, and I told myself I wanted to play in college,” she said. “I always put in the extra time. I’m so excited to be part of the program next year.”
By then her work turning around Fuquay-Varina’s volleyball reputation will be done.