RALEIGH — Cardinal Gibbons is no stranger to the big match, and the Crusaders exhibited the composure that comes with experience Saturday, as they swept (26-24, 25-18, 25-20) Jesse Carson in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A volleyball championships at Reynolds Coliseum.
The win gave the Crusaders their fourth straight 3A title since moving from the 2A division, where Gibbons won three straight championships from 2005 to 2007.
Gibbons also won consecutive N.C. Independent School volleyball titles from 1998 to 2003.
The dynasty has allowed players like championship Most Valuable Player Haleigh Nelson to complete their high school careers without ever seeing Gibbons finish short of the top.
“Winning four straight is unbelievable. … The first day of tryouts, our expectation is to win a state championship,” said Nelson, who has committed to playing college volleyball at Wisconsin.
The Crusaders build off of mistakes during the regular season, and once the playoffs roll around it’s “full steam ahead,” said Nelson, who finished with 12 kills and three blocks and seven digs.
Despite taking all three sets, Cardinal Gibbons had to fight after falling behind late in the first set.
Jesse Carson was up by two with set point, but the Crusaders rattled off four straight points to take the set, 26-24.
Playing from behind is something Gibbons (20-3) is used to, said coach Logan Barber. The Crusaders play each drill from 10-points down in practice, he said.
Nelson said the preparation made it so she was comfortable with the team being down and confident in the Crusaders’ ability to come back. While Barber said he wasn’t as comfortable with those circumstances, Gibbons maintained its cool throughout.
The Crusaders led throughout the second set with freshman outside hitter Briley Brind’Amour coming through with huge plays at the net during a 9-2 run to end the set as Gibbons topped the Cougars 25-18. Brind’Amour led the Crusaders with 15 kills.
Gibbons fell behind again early in the final set, but used a 12-6 run mid-match to take the lead and surge to a 25-20 win.
Setter Erin Quinn contributed a match-high 20 assists and libero Bianca Gartner finished with 13 digs.