APEX — A postseason tournament often brings a level of stress not seen during the regular season, but Apex showed no such tension in a 25-7, 25-7, 25-15 sweep over Knightdale in the first round of the state 4A volleyball tournament on Saturday.
Moments before the match against the upstart Knights, Cougars players were smiling and joking with each other, and that’s just how coach Emily Regan wants it.
“It’s all about the team chemistry with me,” Regan said. “That’s how we’re going to win, by sticking together. I say, ‘You can be fun and relaxed, and you’re going to play better. But not goofy.’”
Apex (17-3) could not have played better in the first two games, allowing Knightdale to score on its serve only three times.
“Having fun is a lot better than coming out here all stressed,” Cougars junior hitter/setter Ally Beckman said. “We had a really good warmup, and before the game we were listening to music to loosen up. It was stress free.”
Senior Chasey Gelston chooses a random selection of music for each match, and whatever she picked before Saturday’s game definitely worked. Senior Bri Belicic had six kills and an ace, while Beckman had four kills, two aces and seven assists as the Cougars took control.
The momentum rolled into the second set, too. Beckman had three of Apex’s had nine aces, while she had two kills and three assists.
“We had a lot of in-system plays,” Beckman said. “Our serving was awesome, and we had a ton of aces. We didn’t make very many unforced errors, and we were just playing Apex volleyball.”
Knightdale (8-12) had the looks of a team that was simply happy to make the playoffs, but first-year coach Anna Gay’s team played better in the third set. The Knights led 13-12, making a solid run on sophomore Nia Singletary’s serve.
“We were just glad to be here, definitely,” Gay said. “First appearance in a while. We’ve come a long way. They did not have any wins last year, so to come and even make it here was a great experience for us. The last game really showed the potential we’ll have next year.”
Junior Coral Kazaroff helped put away the threat with a solid service game, getting four aces in the third set. Kazaroff, Beckman and Keely McMahaon finished with five aces each, while Belicic led Apex with 11 kills. Beckman finished with 16 assists and seven kills.
Apex hosted Wakefield on Tuesday.