As Cameron Lloyd toured the scenic countryside of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania en route to Bucknell University last month, one thought echoed through her mind.
“This reminds me of Hillsborough.”
Funny enough, Fiona Cunningham thought the same thing the day before as she made the trek down from Syracuse, NY with her husband Dominic and their infant son, Tony. Cunningham, the volleyball coach at Cedar Ridge, assisted Lloyd during the arduous process of choosing her college destination.
Last month, Lloyd officially committed to Bucknell, becoming the third current Cedar Ridge player to declare for a Division I school. Last year, senior libero Grace Young announced her intentions to play at UNC Asheville. Cedar Ridge outside hitter Cameron Lanier, who reached the 500 kills plateau during Cedar Ridge’s 3A State Championship match against North Iredell, announced she would attend Elon last spring.
Lloyd visited several Ivy League schools, namely Penn and Cornell, and learned that the city life wasn’t for her. There was even mutual interest with Duke University, a decision that would have rendered irony somewhere in a White Cross cemetery considering Lloyd’s parents, Joel and Sherry, are devoted UNC fans.
“After I visited the city, I thought that wasn’t where I wanted to go,” Lloyd said. “I wanted someplace that wanted me as a player and a person. I feel like I talked to a bunch of schools that I was on their list to talk with, but didn’t have very much interest in me. So I wanted a school that really wanted me.”
Lloyd’s commitment to Bucknell ended an intense and, at times, stressful process that ebbed and flowed between the nomadic world of college coaching, long-standing relationships and modern communication.
“If someone asked me one week what my list of schools was, the next week it would look completely different,” Lloyd said. “It was constantly changing.”
Cunningham started assisting Lloyd in her recruitment in February.
“Fiona helped so much,” Lloyd said. “She basically became my recruiting director. She talked to coaches on my behalf and basically did everything and helped me out. She would tell me things she knew about schools. She has connections to various schools.”
“For all of my athletes, I want them to know I’m here to support them,” Cunningham said. “Whether it’s athletics or academics for them next in life, I try to make sure that high school coaches should be a resource for them for what they want to do after high school. Cameron reached out to me last February to find a good fit academically and athletically.”
Then-Bucknell assistant Erin Kretzschmar contacted Lloyd in April. After several emails of mutual interest, Lloyd started waiting for an invitation for an official visit to the Pennsylvania campus. Except her emails to Kretzchmar, which were once answered promptly, started getting no replies at all. Lloyd, Cunningham and her family figured that Bucknell had lost interest.
What they didn’t learn until later was that Kretzschmar had taken a job as an assistant at The Citadel in late May.
Lloyd arrived in Indianapolis for the USAV Nationals for her travel club team with a nagging feeling of uncertainty. Before long, Bison head coach Tyler Hagstrom reached out to Cunningham. On July 3, Hagstrom spoke to Lloyd after her last month, then called the next day as the family left Nationals.
“Are you still interested in Bucknell?” Hagstrom asked Lloyd.
“Yeah,” she replied.
“Well, let’s get you up to up to school next week,” Hagstrom said.
From that point forward, Hagstrom and the entire Bison staff put on a full-court press to attract Lloyd to Lewisburg.
“We had only talked for about 20 days,” Lloyd said. “He really just jumped on the process of getting me. The entire team made me feel so welcome. They had me play with the team. It moved very fast.”
It turned out that Lloyd had a connection to Bucknell in Jeremy Young, who joined the Bison staff as an assistant coach in 2021. Lloyd met Young when she was 13 while he helped run the UNC volleyball summer camp. Young previously served as a volunteer assistant coach with the Tar Heels until 2018. He also spent seven years coaching for Triangle Volleyball Club in Morrisville while also serving as a counselor at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill.
“I really didn’t know him personally, but he knows me,” Lloyd said. “We had that connection of both living in North Carolina.”
“I think academically, Bucknell is a good fit for Cameron,” Cunningham said. “In terms of volleyball, it was a good fit. So I reached out to coached at Bucknell to see what their interest was and they really liked her. The coaches at Bucknell did a good job communicating what they were looking for and what their program was like.”
Lloyd is the all-time kills leader in Cedar Ridge history with 817. She became the first player in school history to reach 500 career kills on August 31, 2021 against Person, where she amassed 18. Lloyd broke her own school record with 360 kills in a single-season in 2021. As a freshman in 2018, she broke the school record with 346.
Last year, the Cedar Ridge volleyball team became the first female sports team in school history to win a state championship. In a stacked Central Carolina Conference, the Red Wolves emerged undefeated in league play. The depth of the conference was evident in the 3A state playoffs when the league placed three of the final four teams in the Eastern Regional semifinals (along with Person and Northwood). Cedar Ridge defeated J.H. Rose for the regional championship before its win over North Iredell in the state championship match at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.
Lloyd’s college commitment to Bucknell is now secure, which means she’s cleared another obstacle. She didn’t choose Duke, so her family’s passionate ties to UNC football and basketball remain strong. While Lloyd’s free time will dwindle further between now and Cedar Ridge’s season-opener against J.H. Rose next Wednesday in Greenville, her senior season may closely resemble “The Last Dance,” the epic, if divisive, 10-part documentary of Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls in 1997-1998 that’s racked up millions of views on Netflix.
Lloyd started as a freshmen at Cedar Ridge with her childhood friends from White Cross: Julie Altieri, Anaya Carter and Grace Young. Lloyd started playing travel volleyball under Coach Nancy Cates with childhood friends Caitlin Carden and Erin Jordan-Cornell from Orange High School.
The 97-98 Bulls knew that season would be their final one together due to a variety of factors. They were able to block out the distractions and win one, final world championship together before they went their separate ways, never as strong again separately as they were together.
Now, Lloyd can simply focus on volleyball.
This week, Cedar Ridge started its journey for a second straight 3A State Championship with solid scrimmage outings against Apex Friendship and Chapel Hill at Chapel Hill High School.
With her college decision now confirmed, Lloyd is ready for her Last Dance at Cedar Ridge.
“I feel like this year, I’m going to be more relaxed and have some fun,” Lloyd said. “I don’t have to be perfect 24/7 anymore. I can just relax and just play my game, have fun and hopefully get another ring.”