Lloyd, Altieri steer Cedar Ridge sweep of Union Pines in state playoffs

Updated: January 13, 2021

If Cedar Ridge’s victory over Union Pines was any more decisive, it would have been labeled a College Football Playoff national championship game.

In its first home playoff game since 2015, the Red Wolves volleyball team cruised past the Vikings on scores of 25-13, 25-17, and 25-13 in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs on Tuesday night at Red Wolves Gymnasium.

Cedar Ridge will travel to face D.H. Conley, the champions of the 4A/3A Eastern Carolina Conference, on Thursday night for the second round. Conley defeated Terry Sanford 3-0 on Tuesday.

Union Pines (9-3, 9-1), champions of the Tri-County Conference who opened with eight consecutive wins, was swept for only the second time this year.

Like a modern day Jordan and Pippen, Cedar Ridge’s deadly combination of sophomores Cameron Lloyd and Julie Altieri proved to be too much. Lloyd finished with 16 kills, all of them set up by Altieri, who ended the night with 29 assists, seven digs and four aces. Lloyd also had eleven digs.

Cedar Ridge improved to 9-0 in its first game against a non conference opponent this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a start-and-stop pattern to the season that has made establishing a rhythm almost impossible.

Last week, Cedar Ridge defeated Orange to win the Big 8 Conference Championship. It was the Red Wolves first match in 25 days. Cedar Ridge was forced into quarantine after a player from Northwood tested positive for coronavirus shortly after the Red Wolves traveled to Pittsboro on December 10.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a start-and-stop pattern to the season that has made establishing a rhythm impossible for first-year coach Fiona Cunningham. While Cedar Ridge has nine wins, they’ve really played only eight because Southern Durham forfeited a match last month.

“We’re looking at ten weeks into a season and have only played nine games,” said first-year Cedar Ridge coach Fiona Cunningham. “Momentum isn’t really a factor this year because nobody really has it. We have natural forces limiting every team’s momentum. So we’ve talked to the girls about practices needing to be like games.”

Despite playing in front of empty bleachers, the Red Wolves were exuberant from the beginning as they bounced out to a 6-1 lead, including Lloyd laying down two aces and a kill. Union Pines narrowed the deficit to 7-6 before the Red Wolves went on a 8-3 run, featuring two more kills from Lloyd set up by Altieri and an ace from senior Grace Young. The Red Wolves closed the set with three straight points, two of which were kills by Lloyd from Altieri.

Union Pines opened the second set with a point from a Cedar Ridge error. It was the only Vikings lead in the entire match. The Red Wolves reeled off six consecutive points to push its advantage to 12-5, which included kills by sophomore Cameron Lanier and senior Layne Foster. Lanier ended the night with seven kills, while Foster had three kills and two blocks. The Red Wolves closed the frame with four straight points, ending with a Lanier block to send the Cedar Ridge bench into a frenzy.

The Red Wolves jumped out to a 12-5 lead in the third set and were never seriously challenged. At one point, Altieri set up Lloyd for kills on three consecutive points, leading to a Union Pines time out. Justice Wilbourne stuffed a Union Pines kill attempt on match point to end the match after barely an hour.

The last time Cedar Ridge hosted a playoff game, it was the 2015 3A Eastern Regional Final when Asheboro ended the Red Wolves dream of a state championship. As young as the core of Cedar Ridge is, they have lofty plans going into Thursday’s trip to Greenville.

“There was a different kind of pressure tonight, which was a good thing,” Cunningham said. “It was kind of similar to the pressure I remember as a player that no matter who is on the other side of the net, no matter what round it is, you know it’s important. The playoffs this year are particularly competitive since its only 16 teams in the east. We’ll be ready on Thursday.”

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