As coach Logan Barber put it, some things are simply out of his power.
So the Cardinal Gibbons volleyball coach and his Crusaders have decided to focus only on what they can control.
Tori Dozier can control her sets. Briley Brind’Amour can control her body on the court. The Crusaders can control their ball movement and offense, even as early as the first game of the season.
What they could not control, however, is how their 2015 schedule unfolded.
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535 Miles Cardinal Gibbons volleyball team traveled to play teams in Kentucky
The Crusaders, the defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A champion, play just four nonconference games before opening their PAC-6 campaign, their first time in a 4A league. The PAC-6 welcomed Cardinal Gibbons after school officials requested to move up to 4A, citing an enrollment increase.
This year, Gibbons had approximately 1,480 students enrolled, according to school officials.
But officials with the Southwest Wake and Cap-8 conferences amended their bylaws to prohibit their members from playing non-public schools that are NCHSAA members.
Cardinal Gibbons, a non-boarding parochial school, fit the ban’s description.
“Obviously, it was unfortunate how everything played out as far as trying to make the schedule this year,” Barber said following Cardinal Gibbons’ season-opening sweep against Ravenscroft on Tuesday night. The Crusaders won 3-0 (25-13, 25-11, 25-7).
“We were able to get the schedule that we got,” Barber said. “We just look to doing the best we can in all those games. We don’t really think too much about it as far as what could have happened. We just focus on what ended up being our schedule and how we can do the best with that.”
By the time the smoke cleared, Barber said most area coaches had already set their volleyball schedules.
The result: Gibbons will play three games in Kentucky.
The Crusaders traveled some 565 miles to Louisville, Ky., Friday through Sunday for a tournament at Mercy Academy.
“Certain schools were cut off,” said Barber, who led the Crusaders to a championship in each of his previous five seasons. “We just looked at what we could do. Fortunately, the schools in Kentucky were able to accommodate us. Hopefully, that will help. We were a very strong team last year, and that should be a great trip for us.
“It’s a shame that’s how it worked out based on what happened here, but that’s nothing we have any control over.”
Cardinal Gibbons returned Brind’Amour, the 2014 title game MVP, along with several other key players from last year’s team. Dozier, who verbally committed to N.C. State, came back at setter, along with Appalachian State commit Emma Longley and UNC commit Mia Fradenburg. Brind’Amour verbally committed to James Madison, while Sarah Nacouzi (South Carolina) and Mackenzie Morrison (Boston College) round out the senior commitments.
Last year, the Crusaders went 27-0 and surrendered just two sets. They went 15 matches without giving up any.
This season marks the 15-year anniversary of Cardinal Gibbons setting a still-standing record of 80 consecutive wins (1998-2000). The Crusaders own 15 total titles (9 NCHSAA, 6 N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association).
Barber said he was glad to open against Ravenscroft. The Ravens are a regular, and it gave the Crusaders a chance for genuine game action.
They’re deep enough to have competitive practices, but an official’s whistle can make all the difference.
Cardinal Gibbons showed some rust before cruising to the sweep, but at this point, every match counts.
“There are a lot fewer games this season,” said Dozier, who led Tuesday’s win with 14 assists and six blocks. “We’re definitely really focused. We’re trying to come out to practice and do the best we can.”
Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan