Amanda Nugent is a perfectionist. Throughout a season in which the South Forsyth junior outside hitter had 565 kills, 235 digs and 40 aces; in which she led the Lady War Eagles to the Class AAAAAA state finals; in which she became the Forsyth County News’ 2015 Volleyball Player of the Year; she rarely took a moment after matches to see the good in her performances. It always felt too dangerous to let the bad linger.
Until the state semifinals in South’s incredible five-set victory against Harrison that made the Lady War Eagles the authors of history, the first team from Forsyth County to reach the state championship in volleyball in the GHSA. In that thrilling match, Nugent was dominant with 25 kills and 13 digs, and afterward she felt, for once, satisfied.
“It was a cool feeling for me,” Nugent said, “because I don’t let myself have that feeling very often.”
Perhaps it was also a relief. Nugent heaped pressure on herself before the season started to become South’s go-to player, particularly with the graduation of three-time county player of the year Taylor Svehla.
Nugent became a team captain for the first time. She started rotating to all six spots on the court. In the most crucial moments, the ball found her, and she wanted it.
“I would do everything I could to win that point for South,” Nugent said.
Question: How would you describe your season?
Nugent: “My coach [Kelly Wren] told me that she wanted me to be the all-around player that anyone could count on, that people could always go to and that I could be the go-to girl on the court. The entire season I just worked to be the player that she wanted me to be so that I could do the most for our team to get as far as we could.
“Playing all around technically means playing all six rotations, frontcourt, backcourt, but just be able to let me setter know that she could set me anywhere on the court and I would terminate for her. I would do everything I could to win that point for South.”
Q: When you put a kill down, you make this face with so much swagger. How did that start?
Nugent: “That definitely started this year. I don’t know, I just got really competitive this year and started putting a bunch of balls down. But it was in the matches that meant the most to me that I started getting that sassy look down and letting the other team know that I’m coming here and I’m gonna put the ball down in front of you. Dig it if you can, but I bet you can’t. That was my mentality when I got a good kill. Then I would go celebrate with my team.”
Q: Where did that confidence come from?
Nugent: “It wasn’t necessarily confidence. We played Harrison earlier in the season. Katie Doering [Lady Hoyas outside hitter] started it between us. Katie and I’s little rivalry happened during that match. She was staring me down, staring me down. She was blocking me. She was amazing; she was having an amazing match.
“And then I started hitting back at her, and I would get kills and blocks, and I got my rhythm going. I gave her that stare right back.”
Q: What was the highlight of the season for you?
Nugent: “The Final Four match. It was crazy. It could’ve gone either way. But we wanted it too badly. We weren’t going to let it pass up again.
“Everyone played amazingly. It was an amazing match. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, not a single point. It was the most fun I’ve had all season.
“It was a crazy atmosphere. I’ve never seen so many people packed into our gym. And it was amazing to have so many other teams come support us. Basketball was there, softball was there, football, cheerleading was even there. And our fan section too, the BCP. It was crazy.”
Q: Can South get back to the state championship next season?
Nugent: “We set high expectations for the team next year, but we’re losing a couple key players, like Giana [Frangipane], Rachel [Ross] and Courtney [Darling]. But we have the base of our team, so we should get pretty far next year too. I expect nothing less. I won’t stand for anything less.”