When it comes to the private schools that draw southwestern Wake County students, it’s hard to pinpoint which fall sport they are best at. Cross country and volleyball are always well-accounted for, and this year boys soccer and girls golf could have some standouts as well.
There is one big change to this year’s teams. A new league has formed for Cary Christian and Grace Christian. The Eastern Plains Independent 2A Conference is still the name, but gone are many of the league’s easternmost teams.
Cary Academy and Wake Christian will still face off in the Triangle Independent Schools Athletic 3A Conference.
Hilltop Christian in Fuquay-Varina competes in the N.C. Christian Schools Association.
Cardinal Gibbons, a parochial school in the N.C. High School Athletic Association, will still go against its foes in the Big Eight 3A Conference
Volleyball: When it comes to N.C. high school volleyball, it’s Cardinal Gibbons’ world and we’re all just living in it. The Crusaders (28-0) have won the last five NCHSAA 3A championships, giving them 14 state titles in 16 years.
Gibbons has a strong junior class with Briley Brind’Amour, a 6-1 outside hitter, Emma Longley and Mia Fradenburg.
Cary Academy (22-10) was third in an ultra-competitive TISAC. Seniors Katie Dungan (118 kills, 68 blocks) and Elizabeth Frazier (310 digs) lead the way.
Wake Christian (10-12) has Hailey Brooke McFadden (432 kills, 579 digs), a Wake Forest University recruit. Junior Emily Smith (478 assists) returns as a setter.
Cary Christian (17-5) was a 4-seed in last year’s NCISAA 2A playoffs but has lost senior Adria Johnson to transfer.
Boys soccer: Last year, Cardinal Gibbons (15-7-1) earned a tough draw in the first-ever seeded NCHSAA boys soccer playoffs. The Crusaders were stopped in the second round by eventual 3A East champ Jacksonville. They return all-region pick Cooper Duplantis, a junior midfielder.
Cary Academy (2-9-2) will be led by all-state defender Collin Dworsky.
Wake Christian (7-10-2) is coming off its best year as a member of the NCISAA.
Grace Christian (10-8-1) and Cary Christian (11-5-1) were both NCISAA 2A playoff participants.
Boys cross country: Cardinal Gibbons was the NCHSAA 3A runner-up after winning the previous two titles. The top six runners – sophomore Connor Lane, senior J.T. Klimek, senior David Edwards, junior Connor Peeples, senior Will Harris and sophomore Sam Grelck – are all back after finishing in the top-40 and just 13 seconds apart last year.
Cary Academy, the NCISAA 3A runners-up, lose depth but bring back two all-state runners in sixth-place Josh Mitchell (16:09.47), a senior, and 10th-place Coleman Mitchell, a freshman (16:39.88).
Grace Christian won the NCISAA 2A state title behind individual champ Alex Dolwick (16:27.80), a senior. The Eagles return six of their top seven runners from last year, including standouts like freshman Will Sosseman (6th), junior Aaron Baker (10th) and senior Ryan Haughee (19th).
Cary Christian’s top returning runner is Mark Watson, a junior (18th).
Girls cross country: Cardinal Gibbons has won eight state titles over the last nine years and returns junior Sophie Ebihara (18:12.18), last year’s state runner-up. Seniors Megan Vaughn (6th, 18:46.18), Amanda Wiggenhorn and Laura Hart provide great depth. A Gibbons girl has won an NCHSAA state title in seven of the last eight seasons.
Cary Academy, which was third in the state, brings back sophomore Emily Lane, who was 13th in the NCISAA 3A.
Cary Christian freshman Marissa Bishop was fourth in the NCISAA 2A championships as an eighth-grader, but a gradual progression to the top spot will be hard. The three runners who finished ahead of her a year ago are just entering their sophomore years.
Girls golf: Cardinal Gibbons was fourth in the NCHSAA 3A championships thanks to returning seniors Caroline O’Neill (12th) and Ellen Smith (T-23rd).
Field hockey: Cary Academy (13-6) was the 5-seed in last year’s NCISAA playoffs. Cardinal Gibbons is the only other area team that offers the sport, which is not part of the NCHSAA. Gibbons and other teams compete in the N.C. Field Hockey Association.