This week’s volleyball notebook:
The Crusaders (17-7, 10-0 PAC-6 4A) clinched a conference title with a 3-0 sweep of Person on Tuesday.
“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.”
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Gibbons has been forced to play a new style this year. The Crusaders have relied more on balance. The kill totals were spread evenly among Hahn, 5-foot-10 Caroline Dozier, 6-0 senior Molly Dalton, 5-foot-7 senior Anne Hudson and 5-foot-10 senior Joya Libbus.
“We had the potential and players to be successful this year, but we had to do the little things to get better,” Dozier said. “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.”
Person (17-2, 8-2 PAC-6 4A) was swept for a second straight time by the Crusaders, but Rockets coach Amanda Ramirez said her team played a tougher match. 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.
The Caps (15-1, 10-1 Cap-8 4A) withstood big graduation losses from last year to keep its run of conference titles – three consecutive outright titles plus a 2013 co-title with Wakefield. It clinched at least a share with a 3-1 win Tuesday against Leesville Road.
It wasn’t as hard of a transition as it might first appear, said senior Kalee Vanderhorst.
“We all knew how to play and we were all leaders so it made it easier,” said Vanderhorst, who had 20 kills and 18 digs.
Coach Jim Freeman said he has made a change in his lineup, going to a more conventional look moving freshman Jade Demps (11 kills) back to middle blocker. Better team defense allowed the Caps to get into their offense easily as junior Claire Sawyer had 43 assists.
“We had to get a better block,” he said.
Despite the loss, the Pride (14-3, 9-2 Cap-8 4A) was pleased with its performance.
Leesville was hoping to match a previous 3-2 win against Broughton. But the main thing for the Pride was that its young team – only four are seniors and at times five sophomores are on the court together – didn’t fold under pressure. Broughton made a big run to take the third set 27-25 after falling behind 23-21 but it was a credit to the Caps and no fault of the Pride’s.
“We’ve been working a lot on our maturity,” coach Erin Hensler said. “We have not played a match this consistently well with our maturity and calmness and focus. It was definitely our focus tonight was to stay calm under pressure and we did a marvelous job of executing it.”
Franklin Academy (14-2, 13-1 North Central Athletic 1A) made a three-way tie just a two-way tie when it downed Voyager Academy 3-2 last Thursday. The Patriots will play Roxboro Community Friday for the NCAC title. FA won the first meeting 3-2.
The Wildcats (17-2, 11-1) pulled off an upset of their own that could set up a tie for the Greater Neuse River 4A, topping previously undefeated Clayton 3-2 last Thursday.
The playoffs don’t appear to be in the cards for the Red Wolves (8-13, 5-6 Big 8 3A), which were 3A East runners-up last year. But Cedar Ridge is ending its year playing some of its best volleyball, sweeping Chapel Hill 3-0 last week.
The Tigers bounced back from that loss to Cedar Ridge and swept Orange 3-0 Tuesday night to clinch the Big 8 championship. Chapel Hill improved to 17-4 overall, 9-1 in the Big 8, and held a two-match lead over both Orange (10-8, 7-3) and Webb (11-7, 7-3) with two league matches left to play. The Tigers would win any tiebreaker with those two, thanks to a regular-season sweep of both.
Tom Shanahan, W.E. Warnock and Cale Colosimo contributed.