The Cedar Ridge High School volleyball team vindicated their No. 1 ranking in the NCHSAA 3A East Regional Playoffs on Tuesday night by sweeping No. 2 seed Greenville Rose on their court in Hillsborough, securing the Reds’ spot. Wolves in the NCHSAA 3A State Championship game.
The Red Wolves (30-2) will face Western Region No. 1 seed West Iredell (26-1) in the State Final on Saturday in Raleigh with the State Championship on the line This marks Cedar Ridge’s third state championship appearance in the sport of volleyball, and the Red Wolves are in the hunt for the school’s first-ever state title, after falling short in the finals. State in 2004 and 2009.
Rose came out strong in the first set against Red Wolves, scoring the game’s first three points before an out-of-bounds serve. The Rampants took a 5-1 lead and then trailed 10-4 before the Red Wolves came to life. A spike from sophomore Addie Reid put the Red Wolves back on serve at 10-5, and after a block from Rose, a nice reverse lob from junior Julie Altieri brought the Red Wolves back to 11-6.
A combined block from Reid and junior Cameron Lloyd got the Red Wolves at 13-8, and a later block from Altieri and fellow junior Cameron Lanier got the CRHS at 13-9. The Red Wolves went 13-10 on a shot that hit the out-of-bounds line and stayed, but Rose quickly regained the lead, 15-10. After a shot from Rose went wide, making the Red Wolves 15-11, Altieri fired an ace on serve to make it 15-12.
Rose scored a block and a smash to take a 17-13 lead, but a nice shot from junior Melissa Benkowitz on a long volley brought the Red Wolves down to 17-15. Trailing 19-16, the Red Wolves were killed by Lloyd to shoot within two points at 19-17, then earned another point within 19-18, forcing a timeout from Rose. A dramatic block from Lloyd and Reid tied the score at 19-19, and Lloyd followed with a shot that Rose couldn’t recover over the net.
Rose briefly tied the score 20-20 on a blocked shot, but Reid followed with his own block, restoring the lead to Cedar Ridge, 21-20. Junior Grace Young followed with an ace on serve for a 22-20 CRHS lead, which Rose followed with a smash. On a decisive long volley back and forth with Cedar Ridge leading by one point, the Red Wolves scored to take a 23-21 lead. A block from Lanier and Lloyd gave the Red Wolves the set point, leading 24-21, and Altieri completed the victory with a spectacular ace, giving CRHS a 25-21 victory and a 1-0 lead.
Rose came out strong again in the second set, taking an early 6-1 lead before the Red Wolves rallied for six of the next seven points to level things at 7-7. A smash from Lloyd gave CRHS a 9-8 lead, and a net block by Lloyd and Reid made it 10-8 in favor of the Red Wolves. A nice shot from Lloyd into the back corner gave Cedar Ridge an 11-8 lead and forced another timeout from Rose. Lloyd continued his huge offensive flurry, sending a shot that Rose returned out of bounds. Rose eventually recovered serve on an out-of-bounds serve from Cedar Ridge, but the Rampants hit an out-of-bounds serve themselves, giving CRHS a 13-9 lead.
With Lloyd serving, Cedar Ridge built their lead up to 18-13, but Rose picked up eight straight points to tie the set at 18-18. After a time out from CRHS head coach Fiona Cunningham, Rose briefly took a 20-19 lead before Lloyd put the Red Wolves back on track with a slap shot into midfield, between the Rampant defenders .
With the score tied 20-20, the Red Wolves scored three unanswered critical points, culminating in a shot from Altieri which fell behind the left corner. Leading 23-20, the Red Wolves forced the set point on a smash from Benkowitz, and Reid and Benkowitz then ended the set with a blocked shot that Rose hit out of bounds. The 25-20 win gave Cedar Ridge a 2-0 lead, positioning the Red Wolves to sweep the all-important game.
For the third set in a row, Rose came out the strongest team early on, taking a 7-3 lead before Reid landed a deep punch that landed inbounds. A kill from Lloyd brought CRHS within 7-5, and a block from Reid made it 7-6 in favor of Rose. Sophomore Graylinn Serge tied the set with an ace on serve, and three more Red Wolves points gave the home side a 10-7 lead.
Leading 11-8, Benkowitz landed back-to-back aces to help the Red Wolves take a 13-8 lead. A point from Reid gave the Red Wolves a six-point lead, 14-8, before Rose got a block to resume service behind 14-9.
Lanier helped CRHS continue to pull away, as she hit back-to-back spikes to give the Red Wolves a 17-10 lead. Lloyd added a block for a Red Wolves advantage of 19-12, and an out-of-bounds shot from Rose made it 20-12. Another block from Cedar Ridge, Lanier’s, gave the Red Wolves a 21-13 lead, and a smash from Lloyd brought Cedar Ridge to the brink of the regional title, leading 22-13.
Reid continued his stellar play around the net with another block, putting the Red Wolves two points clear of the Championship. Although Rose got two straight points, the Rampants eventually got a shot out of bounds, giving the Red Wolves match point with a 24-15 lead. Reid, Cedar Ridge’s MVP for the game, finished the Rampants with a drive shot that cleared the net and couldn’t be returned.
The 25-15 victory completed a three-set sweep and led to a spirited celebration by the Cedar Ridge players. The Red Wolves ran to the middle of the field and came together to form a stack. Later, CRHS players accepted the NCHSAA 3A East Regional Championship Trophy. Cedar Ridge players hope to bring Hillsborough an even bigger trophy on Saturday – the NCHSAA 3A State Championship Trophy.