RALEIGH — This year was all Leesville Road. The Pride dominated the Cap Eight 4-A conference throughout the regular season, and the Pride’s performance at Wednesday’s conference championship was no different.
Undefeated Leesville Road swept rival Wakefield 25-13, 25-21, 25-15, to add the title Cap Eight tournament champion to its previously earned regular season conference championship.
“This was our goal, to make it to conference and win it,” said Leesville Road senior libero Kati Stammen. “Our goal now is going all the way to the state championship.”
The Pride were on the conference finals stage last year, but fell to a powerful Wakefield team that won its third straight Cap Eight title.
After clawing its way to the top of the conference over the years and falling in the finals, the Leesville Road program knew it had put in the work to have a different outcome this time around.
“It started out as a struggle,” Stammen said of the Pride volleyball program during her freshman year. “We had more freshmen than seniors, so we just had to grow and improve together. Coming into our senior year we knew we were going to be top dog coming off last year.”
Stammen also wanted to be able to play a full championship match this time around after being sidelined with an injury early on in last year’s championship.
“Only being able to play six points was tough,” she said. “I just wanted to not get hurt and be there for my team. It feels good.”
Stammen finished with 22 digs Wednesday and was named Conference Player of the Year.
Sasha Karelov led the Pride with 10 kills and Allison Stone set 18 assists.
In each of the teams’ two regular season meetings, the Wolverines had managed to take a set against the Pride, but this time Leesville Road withstood Wakefield’s second set run.
Leesville Road coach Taine Mergenthaler, who earned conference Coach of the Year honors, said that was also a goal the team set for itself, as Wakefield was the only team the Pride had not beat in three sets during the regular season.
With multiple goals accomplished in one night, the Pride will keep working toward the end goal.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead,” Mergenthaler said of the team’s state championship sights. “Everybody’s going to come in with nothing to lose (against us), but we have to stay focused and win it one point at a time. We have little baby step goals right now.”
The Pride will host Cary High to open regional play Saturday at 1 p.m.