GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Absegami girls volleyball coach Kerry Flukey was wondering why her team was celebrating so much after the Braves beat rival Oakcrest. Sure, it’s a rivalry match and it’s always fun for her players to beat the Falcons, but it was just a regular-season game on a rainy Thursday night in early October. What was all the fuss about?

She then realized why her players were so excited when they brought out flowers, a banner and a personalized volleyball commemorating the victory. It was win No. 200 in the outstanding career of coach Flukey, who has been at the helm at Absegami for 13 years and has averaged about 15 victories per season. She knew she was getting close, but she told husband Vince and daughter Kaylin — who is a senior outside hitter — that she didn’t want to know exactly what number she was at, or if she was even approaching the milestone.

The Braves had to beat a tough Cinnaminson squad yesterday in order to have a chance for coach Flukey to reach the milestone at home against Oakcrest. Absegami took care of business, beating the Falcons 25-16 and 25-13, including a 15-3 run to finish out the second game. Absegami is 13-1 and 5-0 in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference, a game ahead of Pleasantville, while Oakcrest — which came in tied for first in the CAL National — fell to 7-3 overall. The victory also snapped Oakcrest’s four-game winning streak.

“I was not expecting this at all. I was not keeping track, so I had no idea. They asked me if I wanted to know and I said, ‘nope.’ (I didn’t know) until they started cheering. Nobody seems to believe me, but I don’t keep track of things like that. I’m too busy coaching. The girls kept it quiet, and I can’t believe they kept a secret like that. I’m still kind of in shock, I haven’t had a chance to process it yet. This program has been so amazing. My assistant coach (Zach Mack) and I work really hard with these girls. We don’t have a lot of year-round travel players — in fact, this year we have none — so to get these girls to this point where they are consistently working so hard, it’s so much fun to see them blossom. They are studs and they impress me every single day,” coach Flukey said. “We played really well, our passing was on point and that always makes a huge difference. It’s always a big rivalry with Oakcrest and it’s always a great match. That’s definitely the way to do it.”

The first game was nip-and-tuck until Absegami got a little breathing room when Kailyn Fortis scored a pair of service aces to give the Braves a 14-11 lead. Absegami stretched the scoring run to 10 straight points, opening up a 24-14 lead, forcing Oakcrest to call a timeout, but moments later the Braves closed it out after the Falcons had cut the lead to 24-16. In the second game, Oakcrest built a 9-7 lead and threatened to go on a run, but Flukey, Jackie Fortis and Angelina Pollino came alive on the front line and started driving home points.

The Braves tied the game, 10-10, then after taking a lead, a pair of aces from Ashley Solano pushed Absegami’s advantage to 15-10. Oakcrest only got as close as 24-12 before the Braves closed it out with a 25-13 victory.
“This is all we talked about all day. We were so nervous, we had everything planned out and we told all our parents that when we get toward the end, make sure you are videoing it because this is something we have to do for her. This was a big rivalry and to get the win tonight was awesome,” added Pollino, a senior. “We do everything together, and when we make a mistake it’s together, and sometimes they come one after another, but tonight we were really motivated to get her that 200th win, and we pulled through. She definitely gets the job done, and she does it well.”“It’s awesome. She’s worked so hard over the years. I was little when she started coaching and just seeing this is awesome. I just remember coming and watching all the girls play and thinking, ‘I’m going to be there someday.’ Yesterday was a close one and we didn’t play our best, but we wanted this one for her. We wanted her to have it at home, so we fought hard,” Kaylin Flukey said. “South Jersey teams are very underrated when it comes to girls volleyball, so I think this definitely shows that we’re here and we’re showing out.”

Coach Flukey has built up perhaps the most dominant team in the Cape-Atlantic League the past 10 years, as the Braves have won plenty of league titles and are right in the thick of things again this season.

“I’ve lived around this sport my entire life. My dad was my coach in middle school and I’ve always loved it,” she said. “I’ve loved seeing the transition from seeing very few teams in South Jersey to now most schools have it. It has made such a huge difference and I love being a part of it.”

What’s next: Absegami travels to OLMA on Monday, time TBA. Oakcrest hosts Gloucester Tech on Friday at 5 p.m.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

NOTE: The Cape-Atlantic League girls volleyball tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19 at Stockton University, with play beginning around 9 a.m. Semifinals and finals will be in the early afternoon.