APA gets share of fifth straight conference title on Senior Night
Alli Grant Avery and Arendell Parrott powered past Grace Christian Tuesday to win its fifth consecutive conference title. Photo by Melissa Lambert / Special to Neuse News
The result on the court may have been familiar, but the moment certainly wasn’t for four Arendell Parrott Academy players.
Tuesday was the team’s Senior Night and the Patriots defeated Grace Christian 26-24, 25-20, 25-13 to clinch a share of their fifth consecutive conference championship. APA (17-3) can win the NCISAA Eastern Plains Conference outright with a win against St. David’s Thursday.
The game also doubled as the final regular-season home game for Alli Grant Avery, Jordan Ibegbu, Mackenzie Pope and Johnna Tyndall, who all played good roles to ensure the team finished an emotional night with a victory.
“That went by fast,” Avery said. “It’s bittersweet, but it was so fun to get to play, have all our friends and family here and get a big win. We couldn’t have gone out on a better game — we played well as a team.”
The Patriots shot out to an 8-3 lead after an Avery ace, but Grace Christian (18-3) fought back and eventually staved off a match point with Kaeli Braswell’s kill to tie the game at 24. The Patriots would get the next point before Avery’s kill ended the set.
In the second set, a Braswell kill and Sally Perez ace highlighted and 8-2 start for the Eagles. Grace Christian had an 11-5 advantage, but two blocks from Virginia Edmondson, one from Ibegbu and a Jorja Tuten ace were part of a 6-0 run to tie the game. The Eagles scored the next point, but Edmondson’s kill sparked a second 6-0 run and the Patriots wouldn’t look back. Edmondson ended the set with a spike to put APA ahead 2-0.
“I knew we were down and needed a spark, so I did what I could to help out the team until we were able to finish them off,” Edmondson said.
The third set was tied at 4 but Avery’s block sparked a 7-1 spurt — highlighted by an Avery ace and Tyndall kill — to give the team necessary separation. Grace Christian wouldn’t get within five from there and the Patriots closed the match out on a 7-0 run.
The win became the 104th in the careers of Avery and Pope, 84th in straight sets. The two have been on the team since the eighth grade, have experienced just 11 losses and .
“Coach (David Barnes) has been there for us the whole time,” Pope said. “He has coached us into who we are and it means a lot to put a state championship (up) with us on it (in 2018).”
Ibegbu was moved up to varsity last year and said her experience throughout the seasons has been wonderful.
“It’s been really great to be a part of this team,” Ibegbu said. “Coach Barnes has been amazing as usual and I’m just blessed to be part of a team so close-knit.”
Tyndall joined the team this season after transferring from South Lenoir and said it’s been wonderful.
“I can’t think of a better team to be on my senior year,” Tyndall said. “It’s really been awesome here and I’m really thankful for the change.”
Barnes had high praise for his seniors.
“This was great closure for Alli Grant Avery and Mackenzie Pope, who were five-year starters on varsity,” Barnes said. “There won’t be another setter to come through Parrott like Mackenzie and we won’t have another hitter like Alli. These girls helped ensure the seniors before them would end up as conference champions and now they’ve got their turn.
“Johnna came in as a transfer, starting every match and played the net well, getting some big blocks and hits for us. Then Jordan came out of nowhere as of late, becoming a stronger defender and giving us some quality minutes.”
Barnes said the team stayed strong to make the fifth straight conference title a possibility.
“We faced adversity after losing back-to-back five-set games to Coastal Christian and Cary Christian,” Barnes said. Kids were hurt and a lesser team would’ve folded, especially when the next team was considered the No. 1 team in the state in Grace Christian when we faced them. We kept talking about taking care of us and as long as we won our next five games, we’d be conference champions. We’ve gotten four of them, and now we’ve got our fifth against St. David’s to win it outright.”