J.H. Rose had the better opening punch, but Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons had the right counters in a championships-caliber second round N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A volleyball playoff game.
Gibbons swept Rose 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-23) in a rematch of last year’s 4A East final.
Rose (17-5) led early in each of the opening two sets, but Gibbons went on a 11-4 run to close out the first and 11-5 in the second. The Rampants played catch-up in the third, falling behind 10-3 but taking a 13-12 lead that extended into a 20-16 advantage.
But Gibbons (21-7) showed why it has won seven straight NCHSAA titles and has one playoff loss since 2005 (66-1 overall). The Crusaders, the 2015 4A champs, scored 7 of the last 10 points to down the 2014 4A champs.
“I think the biggest difference in the match between us and Gibbons was serve-receive,” said Rose coach Norman Cabacar. “They kept us out of our system on our attacks. ... We knew it was going to come down to who could pass better.”
Up next for Cardinal Gibbons is a trip to Broughton. Last season, that was their match before facing Rose.
Rose, Broughton and Gibbons are all a lot different from a year ago thanks to graduation losses. But Gibbons has had the biggest adjustment, having lost several three-year starters who were the foundation of three straight state championships.
This year’s team doesn’t have a much size, experience or college recruiting interest, but they are as good as anyone in the state at playing defense.
“Everyone out there has a very specific job and they know how to do it. As we were talking about, it won’t work every rally, we know that, but we believe if we can stay with our plan and do our thing it will bear out over the course of the game,” Gibbons coach Logan Barber said.
Another adjustment? Spreading the ball around to make sure a team like Rose – which has two Division I middle blockers – would have to stay guessing where the next attack would come from.
“We don’t really have a key hitter, which is by design, and it’s working out for us right now,” Barber said.
Virginia recruit Caroline Kuhn and N.C. Central recruit Gabrielle Greene were dominant in their last Rampants match, notching 14 and 10 kills respectively. The rest of the Rose starting lineup returns next year.