There was a reason why the O Zone, the student group for Orange High, was packed on Tuesday night for a volleyball match.
There was a reason why the spikes were harder, why there were more dives for loose balls, why sure kills were denied because of an improbable dig out of nowhere.
There was a reason why Orange principal Eric Yarbrough, naturally wearing an orange tie, implored the student section to make more noise late in the 2nd set when the Panthers tried to even the match.
And there was a reason why Orange senior Jordan Lloyd, who has played volleyball since she was an adolescent in White Cross, hugged her father Joel in joyful tears as the students rushed the floor around them after it all ended.
That reason was because Orange and Cedar Ridge were playing volleyball on Tuesday night. And Tuesday night was a long time in the making.
The Panthers defeated the Red Wolves 3-1 to end Cedar Ridge’s 7-game winning streak in the series. The last time Orange defeated Cedar Ridge, they weren’t even conference rivals. It was September 5, 2012, when Cedar Ridge was a 2A squad, while Orange remained in 3A.
It was also Lloyd’s first win over the Red Wolves in most likely the final time she’ll ever play them, along with fellow seniors Macy Hughes, Mileah Shriner, Julia Lovingood, and Eva Porter.
After the two teams split the opening sets, the turning point came in the 3rd. Cedar Ridge took a 16-8 lead, but Orange went on a 9-1 run to even the match. Cedar Ridge took the ensuing four points to bolt ahead again 22-18, but Orange captured six of the last eight points to win 26-24.
Orange captured the final set 25-18 to set off a raucous celebration in Jim King Gymnasium.
Lloyd registered 25 digs, eight kills, and an ace.
Bailey Lucas finsihed with an ace, 13 kills, 22 assists and eight digs for Orange. Caroline Compton added 19 assists and ten digs. Junior libero Faith Foushee had 17 digs. Julia Fish added six kills, eleven blocks and one dig.
Cedar Ridge captured the opening set 25-22 that ended with a thrilling set point. It appeared that Compton would spike a point home for Orange, but Lili Henry made a headlong dive to keep the ball alive, which turned into a block point for Hannah Tyo.
Cedar Ridge’s Meg Anderson had six kills, two blocks and twelve digs. Alexis Dumain had seven assists, and a solo block. Henry finished with eleven assists, nine digs and two kills. Tyo had six solo blocks and five kills.
Orange is now 7-7 overall and in sole possession of 2nd place in the Big 8 with an 5-2 record. The Panthers trail Chapel Hill by two games in conference play.
Cedar Ridge is 5-10, 2-5 in the Big 8.
Orange hosts Jordan on Monday in Hillsborough. Cedar Ridge hosts Person on Wednesday and Northern Vance on Thursday.