APA looks to defend state title

APA looks to defend state title

Arendell Parrott Academy may have won a title last year, but the team isn’t satisfied.

The Patriots have been on a tremendous run lately, reaching the state championship match the past two years, including the school’s first volleyball title in 2018 after a 5-set thriller against Caldwell Academy. APA has also won a school-record four consecutive conference titles and hasn’t dropped a regular-season game since Sept. 13, 2016 against Freedom Christian Academy.

Patriots coach David Barnes said it has been a steady rise since he took over in 2015, and the team finished last year ranked No. 7 in the state according to Maxpreps.

“It’s been a building process,” Barnes said. “Year 1, we went to the quarterfinals of the state, Year 2 we went to the semifinals, Year 3 was the finals, and last year won the state championship. I think this group is ready to accept the challenge and continue the excellence.”

“We’ve got a lot of kids back from last year and they’re getting stronger, faster and better as volleyball players. We’re looking for an outstanding season.”

The Patriots lost three seniors, including Gabby Carriere — who finished the state championship game with a pair of service aces — but return numerous stalwarts, including Alli Grant Avery who led the area with 432 kills.

“We can’t go downhill our senior year,” Avery said. “This is our last chance to play here, so there’s motivation to go out on top. We know what it’s like to lose and we don’t want to experience that this year.”

Fellow senior Mackenzie Pope said the team has been working hard in practice to keep the skills potent.

“We’ve been working on a lot of ball-control drills and timing in practice,” Pope said. “We’ve got some younger players with plenty of talent and we’re trying to make sure they’re comfortable on the court.”

During Thursday’s practice, several former stars came out to assist the team, including Scarlet Combs and Hannah Scott Avery.

“I wanted to come out to a practice to help out and see what the team was doing, and Coach Barnes allowed it,” Combs said. “I’m glad they were able to win that title last year and hopefully they’ll do the same thing this year.”

Avery has high expectations for the team.

“There’s a lot of talent and energy here, and they’re practicing with intensity,” Avery said. “I’m excited to see what they’ll do this season.”

Barnes believes the chances of the team repeating are high if the Patriots play to their potential.

 “Last year was the most unexpected state title in my whole time in volleyball,” Barnes said. “If last year’s team went 21-0 and won a state championship after losing All-State (players) Scarlet Combs (and) Hannah Scott Avery, this team can definitely win the state championship.”

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