Conley ends Cedar Ridge’s volleyball season 3-1

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Updated: January 16, 2021

It’s hard to say Cedar Ridge volleyball’s season is over when it barely felt like it started.

Usually, a volleyball season is around 24 matches that starts the first week of the academic year. Good teams will play until the end of October. The best last until early November, when they wind up going for a state championship at Reynolds Coliseum or Crown Coliseum.

In the aftershock of the train wreck that was 2020, everything still feels irregular. Cedar Ridge’s regular season was supposed to be 14 games, but is over after just ten.

Along the way, the Red Wolves defeated the defending 3A State Champions, won the Big 8 Conference championship and captured its first state playoff win since 2015 behind a fleet of sophomores who make the Red Wolves’ future blindingly blight.

Unfortunately, Cedar Ridge’s fleet ran into a barrage of cannons from D.H. Conley on Thursday night.

Conley, the champions of the 4A/3A Eastern Carolina Conference, defeated Cedar Ridge 3-1 on Thursday night at Viking Gymnasium on scores of 23-25, 25-15, 25-21 and 25-18.

Conley (13-1) will host Chapel Hill on Saturday.

For the first time in Cedar Ridge’s brief season, they ran into an opponent that could not only match its finishing firepower, but overwhelm it. The Vkings’ front court of 6’0 freshman Ashlyn Philpot, 5’10 junior Maddy May and 5’11 junior Ella Philpot supplied plenty of killing power, which only grew more formidable when sophomore outside hitter Kylah Silver came off the bench.

“They have size, but we were prepared for it,” said Cedar Ridge Coach Fiona Cunningham. “They played phenomenal. They had great offense, but when it came down to blocking we got touches. We slowed down the ball exactly how we wanted to.”

After a two-and-a-half hour bus trip to Greenville, the Red Wolves didn’t lack for confidence early. They rolled out to a 6-1 lead behind two kills from sophomore Cameron Lloyd, along with finishes from Layne Foster and Justice Wilborune.

The Vikings evened the opening set after a series of powerful spikes from Silver and an ace from senior Sarah Dees. With the set tied at 23, Lloyd gave Cedar Ridge the lead when she tipped the ball over the hands of May, who sent the volley off the antenna. Senior Layne Foster, in her final match, earned the kill on set point off an assist from Julie Altieri.

“We slowed down the ball exactly how we wanted to in the first set,” Cunningham said. “We stuck to the game plan. Conley responded. They adjusted to what our game plan was and we just didn’t match that adjustment quite as quickly.”

With the second set even 8-8, the Vikings started to impose its dominance. They went on a 9-1 run behind finishes from Dees and Ashely Thomas. Philpot, the freshman, blocked set point to even the match.

Though Conley never trailed in the fourth set, the frame was tight throughout. Lloyd had six kills in the 4th, all assisted by Altieri. Lloyd also had an ace to tie the set at 18 when Conley immediately reeled off four straight points, starting with a spike by Silver off an assist by Olivia Lefever. An errant serve by Cedar Ridge gave the Vikings the third set 25-21.

Conley took control of the final frame with a 13-0 run to go ahead 19-8. Cedar Ridge fought back to narrow the gap to 20-13 behind kills from Lloyd and Wilbourne, but Ashlyn Philpot spiked home match point to send the Vikings on to the state quarterfinals.

In her final match at Cedar Ridge, senior libero Marlee Rakouskas had 29 digs.

As Cedar Ridge prepares for what will hopefully be a more traditional season starting in August, they can take solace over the fact the team won the first Big 8 Conference championship at the school since the softball team in May 2019.

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