When you’re a program that’s built a winning pedigree for the past two years, there’s nothing like the word “new.”

As in “new threats on offense” and “new players who can finish.”

That’s what Cedar Ridge Coach Fiona Cunningham is trying to establish as the Red Wolves prepare for the new Central Carolina Conference.

The newest Red Wolf factored big against her old team in the season opener.

Junior Melissa Benkowitz, an East Chapel Hill transfer, had ten kills and three assists in her first official game for the Red Wolves as Cedar Ridge swept East Chapel Hill 3-0 on Tuesday afternoon at Wildcats Gymnasium. After Cedar Ridge wrapped up the second set, Cunningham rested starters Cameron Lloyd and Cameron Lanier, while junior setter Julie Altieri also had reduced time. That left Benkowitz as the main outside hitter, and she had four kills and two aces in the final set. Benkowitz finished the second set with a kill off an assist from Altieri, followed by an ace to give Cedar Ridge the frame 25-15.

Junior Anaya Carter had a kill off an assist from Altieri on match point to put the third set away for the Red Wolves 25-21.

“It was a team effort today,” Cunningham said. “Every single player got on the court and every single player scored a point or contributed in multiple ways.”

Lloyd finished with six kills.

“Mel was a liber at East Chapel Hill,” Cunningham said. “Over the past year, she grew into some height during club ball and they started using her as an outside hitter. She plays beach (volleyball) and when she plays beach, she hits outside. So we’ve been giving her some time to swing on the pin and see how it works.”

Cedar Ridge (1-0) will return home to face Riverside on Thursday. Then comes a much-anticipated trip to Greenville to face D.H. Conley, the defending 3A State Champions. The Vikings defeated the Red Wolves in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs in January 3-1. Cedar Ridge captured the first set, one of only three sets the Vikings lost in the postseason. They swept Cox Mill in the State Championship match.


Playing without 2020 Big 8 Player of the Year Lottie Scully and junior All-Conference middle hitter Erin Jordan-Cornell, Orange still found a way to win its season-opener against Jordan in Durham 3-2 on Monday night. The Lady Panthers prevailed on scores of 25-18, 17-25, 25-20, 22-25 and 15-13.

In the absence of Scully, Ella Van Time had 15 kills, six blocks and 15 digs as the Lady Panthers captured its season opener for the fourth time in five years. Junior Allie Wilkerson added eleven kills, one ace, and 15 digs.

Junior Caitlin Carden established herself as the team’s premier setter, registering a whopping 40 assists, along with 16 digs and two aces. Senior Avery Miller, starting her third varsity season, had seven kills and ten digs.

Orange will travel to East Chapel Hill on Friday afternoon at 5.


The Orange women’s tennis team started its season against Carrboro at Panther Tennis Courts on Monday afternoon, but the match was suspended because of rain. At the time the match was halted, Orange led 3-1.

Grace Pell grabbed a win for Orange at #2 singles after her opponent had to retire due to injury. At #5 singles, sophomore Erin Sollars earned her first victory at the varsity level. Freshman Shannon Solars won at #6 singles, also her first win for Orange.

Orange women’s tennis coach Justin Webb hopes to continue the match at a later time. The Lady Panthers will return to action against Southern Alamance on Thursday in Hillsborough.

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