RALEIGH — Cardinal Gibbons’ volleyball team knew Saturday what it had all but known for the last several years – a trip to the 3A East final would mean going through league rival Chapel Hill.
If there’s one team that has grabbed the attention of the Crusaders’ powerhouse volleyball team over the past few years, it’s been the Tigers.
And after a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 25-19, 25-15) , Gibbons made it four consecutive seasons where it has advanced to the state semifinals by defeating Chapel Hill in the fourth round.
“Them taking one from us earlier this year really made it a lot easier for us to be focused for this match,” said Cardinal Gibbons coach Logan Barber. “I never want to lose a match, obviously, but I think in the long run it might have done some good things for us, specifically in this game. We did a lot of work yesterday talking about how, in the three games we’ve played them, they’ve hurt us and how we’ve hurt them and I think those details made a huge difference today.”
Crusaders senior Haleigh Nelson, a Wisconsin recruit, played to her 6-foot-3 height at the net with 13 kills and three blocks, but also showed her all-around game with multiple digs playing along the back row.
“The play starts with the pass, obviously, and I feel great about myself when I can get that ball to one of them and let one of them go up and (get the kill),” Nelson said.
Gibbons defeated the Tigers for the third time in four meetings this season, but the two shared the Carolina 6 Conference title.
Chapel Hill has lost just 21 matches in the last four years, and 13 of those have come to the Crusaders (19-2), including four in the postseason.
“They shut down our two hitters, and when you block them and nothing else is going your way, it’s hard to put points on the board,” said Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris.
The Tigers (24-6) were led by Megan Blunden’s nine kills and Hannah Blackburn’s 12 assists and 19 digs.
The Crusaders will host Greenville D.H. Conley (27-3) on Tuesday.
Warriors win state title: St. David’s (28-1) won its second straight N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A state championship Saturday. The Warriors, the top seed in 2A, earned a 3-0 sweep against underdog 11-seed Calvary Baptist.
St. David’s is 61-1 in the last two seasons.
Vikings in 2A East final: South Granville will host the 2A East final on Tuesday after its 3-1 defeat of conference foe Cedar Ridge.
The Vikings and Red Wolves (24-9), both members of the Carolina 12 1A/2A Conference, had split the regular-season series.
South Granville (22-5) is set to host Hampstead Topsail (23-3) for the right to move on to the 2A championship game.
Dawgs, Phoenix to meet in 1A: A Triangle team will make it to next Saturday’s state championship in Raleigh thanks to Princeton’s 3-1 defeat of Pender and Raleigh Charter’s 3-2 victory against Riverside-Martin (24-2).
It’s the second straight five-set win for the Phoenix in these playoffs. Raleigh Charter (21-5) had defeated Carolina 12 1A/2A Conference foe N.C. Science & Math 3-2 in the previous round.
Playing against a perennial power in Pender (23-6), Princeton (17-6) came away with a 21-25, 25-21, 25-12 and 25-18 .
“We’ve talked about it the whole season,” said Princeton junior outside hitter Tori Paul of reaching the regional round. “It’s what we’ve worked for since the end of last season.”
Staff Writer D. Clay Best contributed to this report.
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