Cardinal Gibbons’ volleyball team lacks the ability to dominant opponents that it has enjoyed during six straight N.C. High School Athletic Association state titles – but the Crusaders are in position to hang another banner.
But “first things first” are targeted. They’ve had their eyes on hanging a PAC-6 Conference title banner before thinking ahead to the state playoffs.
Gibbons swept Person 3-0 for the second time this season on Tuesday night in the Crusaders’ gym. The victory was by scores of 25-21, 25-19 and 25-23.
The Crusaders (17-7, 10-0), ranked No. 7 among N&O schools, now holds a two-game lead on No. 8 Person (17-2, 8-2) with two remaining in league play.
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“It feels amazing,” said Gibbons senior Delaney Hahn, a team captain. “We were a new team starting over this year with new girls. We’ve worked hard together to find our groove. We wanted to continue the tradition of working hard.”
Gibbons has been forced to play a new style this year. The Crusaders have relied more on balance since with taller players and a dominant go-to girl.
“We had the potential and players to be successful this year, but we had to do the little things to get better,” said Caroline Dozier, a 5-foot-10 sophomore. “We have improved a lot. We’re coming together and still improving. We’re a smaller team than last year, but we can use that to our advantage if we pick up our defense.”
The kill totals were spread evenly among Hahn, Dozier, 6-0 senior Molly Dalton, 5-foot-7 senior Anne Hudson and 5-foot-10 senior Joya Libbus.
Person was swept for a second straight time, but Rockets coach Amanda Ramirez said her team played a tougher match. In the first and second games, Person came out aggressively with leads of 3-0 and 4-1 and stayed with striking distance, but Gibbons eventually wore down Person.
In the second game, Gibbons went on a 6-1 run for a 15-10 lead and a 7-1 run for a 23-14 advantage before closing out the match.
Gibbons appeared ready to make quick work of the Rockets in the third game, taking a 23-14 lead. But after a timeout, Person scored six points in a row and nine 10 to close to with 24-23. Hudson put away a Gibbons kill to clinch the match with the 25th point.
Courtney Jackson, a 6-foot-1 middle blocker, led the Rockets with nine kills. Sophomore Hailey Long had 16 assists.
“I was proud of my team for the way we finished,” Ramirez said. “We pushed back.”
Ramirez is in her third season as the head coach at her alma mater. Public address announcer Alex Bass made note before the match that 10 years ago she led the Rockets to the NCHSAA 4A state title.
THEY SAID IT
“We’re not as big as last year, so we have to run our offense in different areas. That’s key because that will switch up the blockers.” – Dozier.