The opening round of the state volleyball playoffs on Saturday also includes several milestones, both locally and statewide.

It will be the first state playoff competition administered by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association where the brackets are configured based on the new ratings percentage index. Before the pandemic, the NCHSAA seeded the playoffs based on a formula dictated by MaxPreps rankings.

The first RPI rankings, released last month, made it clear the Central Carolina Conference was the top league in the 3A East region. Nothing has changed since then.

Cedar Ridge, the CCC regular season and tournament champions, finished #1 in the 3A East Region. The Red Wolves will open with South Brunswick (4-13) this afternoon at Red Wolves Gymnasium at 2 o’clock. The Cougars, who play in the 4A/3A Mideastern Conference, earned the #32 seed in the 3A East because they finished the highest among the three 3A teams in their league (North Brunswick wound up 2-12 and West Brunswick went 0-14).

It will be the second time in 2021 that Cedar Ridge has hosted a state playoff game. In January, the Red Wolves defeated Union Pines in the opening round of a 3A State Playoff where the field was reduced to 32 teams. Eventual 3A State Champion D.H. Conley eliminated the Red Wolves two nights later in Greenville in four sets.

In the final RPI standings, the CCC had four of the top nine teams in the 3A East region. In addition to Cedar Ridge, Northwood finished #3, Person #4 and Orange #9. Eastern Alamance, who will travel to Person this afternoon, wound up #14.

Meanwhile, Orange will host a state volleyball playoff game for the first time since 2012 this afternoon. The Lady Panthers will welcome West Johnston (12-5), who finished in a three-way tie for 2nd place with C.B. Aycock and South Johnston in the Quad County Conference. Earlier this week, Orange rallied from two sets down to defeat Western Alamance in the opening round of the CCC Tournament before falling to Cedar Ridge in the semifinals.

Orange (10-9) will clinch its third straight winning season with a victory over the Wildcats. If Orange wins, the Lady Panthers will face either 3rd-seeded Wilson Hunt, the champions of the Quad County Conference, or 30th seeded Triton in the 2nd round.

A big reason why Orange received a high RPI ranking was its strength of schedule. The Lady Panthers’ opponents win percentage was .670. The only team in the 3A East region with a higher figure was Cedar Ridge with .672. The Red Wolves didn’t surpass Orange in that category until the final of the CCC Tournament, where the Red Wolves swept Person.

Playing the strongest schedule imaginable was precisely what Cedar Ridge coach Fiona Cunningham aimed for at the beginning of the season. After its loss to Conley, Cunningham immediately scheduled a home-and-home series with the Vikings, which included the Red Wolves avenging its loss in August. And they did it in Greenville.

Cedar Ridge won six nonconference games against teams that won its respective league championships: twice against Carrboro (champions of the Northern Lakes Conference), D.H. Conley (tied for 1st in the Big East), J.H. Rose (tied with Conley), Pinecrest (a 4A team that won the Sandhills Confernece) and Chapel Hill (another 4A team that went undefeated in the DAC-VII).

If the Red Wolves win its opening round game today, they will host either #16 West Carteret or #17 South Johnston on Tuesday at Red Wolves Gymnasium.

The 3rd round is scheduled for Thursday.

The last time Cedar Ridge won 24 games in a regular season, they hosted the 3A Eastern Regional Championship game in 2015. Asheboro defeated the Red Wolves in four sets.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *