CHAPEL HILL One thing already is clear less than halfway into the Big 8 Conference volleyball season: it’s probably going to be a tight race for post-season playoff spots all the way to the end.
Orange defeated Chapel Hill 3-2 Thursday on the Tigers’ home floor and remained one game behind conference leader Cedar Ridge.
Cedar Ridge (9-3 overall, 4-0 in conference matches) already has wins in hand against both Orange (8-5, 3-1) and Chapel Hill (5-7, 2-2). Orange is tied for second place with Oxford Webb (8-2, 3-1).
The Panthers will host Webb on Thursday in the first match of their home-and-away series.
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“We’ve played great,” Orange head coach Christina Carinci said. “Volleyball is such a game of momentum. Your goal has to be to play as consistently as you can. We were consistent and executed at a high level, and that helped us win.”
Thursday night’s match at Chapel Hill fittingly was as close as the Big 8 standings, with Orange winning a see-saw battle 25-12, 18-25, 25-18, 22-25, 15-10.
Orange never trailed in the first game and pulled away by taking advantage of five Chapel Hill errors that contributed to the Panthers’ last 10 points.
Chapel Hill bounced right back in Game 2 and likewise never trailed, leading by as much as 23-15 before winning the set.
Getting some strong hitting from junior Kira Crider, Chapel Hill led 10-7 early in Game 3 and was still ahead 14-13 before the Tigers committed a string of four errors that led to a 19-14 lead for Orange. Game point came when the Tigers touched the net.
Chapel Hill played some of its grittiest volleyball in Game 4, fighting back from deficits of 9-3 and 13-10. A dink by Marin Wolf led to a side-out for Chapel Hill and Katie Huge then served for five straight points (including an ace) for a 15-13 Tiger lead. Orange tied the game at 22-all before Chapel Hill’s Gabi Brenman scored two of the Tigers’ last three points.
Orange dominated the last game, scoring three points directly off blocks at the net and getting three more off strong kill shots by Andie McKinnon.
By the numbers
5: straight wins by Orange, which beat 4A East Chapel Hill 3-0 on Monday.
2: straight losses for Chapel Hill, which lost 3-1 at Cedar Ridge on Tuesday.
12: team-high kills for Orange’s Andie McKinnon, the Big 8 Conference’s leader in kills (141), who also had a team-highs of 33 digs and 4 aces Thursday.
Three who mattered
Kira Crider: provided Chapel Hill with some firepower from the left outside hitter’s position with 15 kills.
Jordan Lloyd: Orange’s libero had 26 digs, 2 aces and an assist, but her biggest contribution came in fending off several would-be kills by Crider.
Kayla Durham: made 2 aces, 9 kills, 11 digs for Orange.
They said it
“It just came down to hitting errors,” Chapel Hill head coach Jody Brown said. “We’re passing the ball well. We’re playing good defense. We are just a little hesitant with our attacking, so we’re either hitting soft or going out. We have to find that good zone in between.”
Orange plays at Northwood on Tuesday and hosts Webb on Thursday. Chapel Hill plays at Northern Vance on Tuesday and then hosts Southern Durham on Thursday.
All four dates begin with junior varsity matches at 5 p.m., followed by the varsities at approximately 6 p.m.
Chapel Hill won Thursday’s JV match with Orange: 25-21, 18-25, 25-11