RALEIGH — Mayodan McMichael consistently wins its conference title and advances to the NCHSAA 3A tournament. The trouble is, the Phoenix keep running into Cardinal Gibbons in the state playoffs
This year it was in the third round that the Crusaders blocked McMichael’s path with a 3-0 sweep Thursday in the Raleigh school’s gym.
Cardinal Gibbons won 25-14, 25-8, 25-9 as the Crusaders (25-0) remained unbeaten in pursuit of their fifth straight state title.
“We’ve lost to them every year in the state playoffs but two since 2006,” said McMichael coach Marty Woods, whose team finished 24-7. “They’re a different team this year, but they’re still very disciplined and precise and skilled.
“We’re from a tiny corner of Rockingham County, and we don’t see this type of competition. We try to get out and play other schools, but we’re not used to playing a team with so many weapons.”
The Crusaders are younger and not as big of a team as in past seasons, but it’s an improving team and that’s what matters most when the state playoffs arrive.
“We’re a different-sized team playing a different style of play, but the young players have filled their roles and are doing the job,” Cardinal Gibbons coach Logan Barber said. “It’s good to see the team learn to play a different style and to be successful.”
Briley Brind’Amour, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, led the Crusaders with 18 kills and five blocks. Amy Robertson, a 5-10 senior, added 11 kills.
Game 1 was the most competitive of the three until junior Carmen Sigmon served five straight points, including three aces, for a 22-11 lead.
Brind’Amour dominated Games 2 and 3. In Game 2, she recorded three kills and two blocks en route to a 10-2 lead. In Game 3, she had three kills in an 8-1 scoring run for another 10-2 lead.
The old sports cliché that this late in the season a sophomore is no longer a sophomore applies to Brind’Amour’s level of play.
“She’s a very good player who is better than last year when she played a lot,” Barber said. “She has the potential to take a match over.”