Cedar Ridge Volleyball

Lloyd named Central Carolina Conference Volleyball Player of the Year; five Red Wolves named All-CCC

Considering everything she accomplished in her Cedar Ridge career, it may seem surprising that Cameron Lloyd hasn’t won a conference player of the year award until now.

Yet Lloyd was honored as the Central Carolina Conference Volleyball Player of the Year earlier this month for the first time. Lloyd was one of five Cedar Ridge players to be named All-CCC.

Joining Lloyd on the All-Conference team was senior middle blocker Cameron Lanier, senior setter Julie Altieri, libero Grace Young and outside hitter Melissa Benkowitz.

Together, Lloyd, Lanier, Altieri, Young and Benkowitz ended their Cedar Ridge careers with three consecutive conference championships. Lloyd, Lanier and Altieri, all of whom started as freshman, ended their career with a cumulative record of 83-11. They won 40 consecutive games against conference opponents and became the first female team to win a state championship in Cedar Ridge history when they captured the 2021 state championship.

This year, Cedar Ridge won 25 consecutive matches. Its only two losses came against J.H. Rose, who defeated the Red Wolves in its season-opener and in the Eastern Regional Championship match in Greenville.

Lloyd, who set the school record for career kills in her junior season, had 346 kills in her senior season. It was 14 kills shy of her school single-season record of 360 set in 2021. Lloyd, who committed to Bucknell in August, had a career-high 243 digs. She had ten games where she finished with double-digit kills, including a season-high 20 in a sweep of Southern Alamance on September 14. In her final match at Cedar Ridge, Lloyd had seven kills against Wilson Hunt in the state quarterfinals.

Altieri, the all-time assist lead in school history, is also the all-time leader in assists. This season, Altieri had 479 assists and 38 aces. Against Hunt, with Cedar Ridge trailing 23-20 in the final set, Altieri served the Red Wolves out with back-to-back aces. She assisted on the final two points, the last she would score in Hillsborough, as the Red Wolves won its tenth consecutive playoff match. Altieri ended her career with 1,978 assists and 213 aces.

Lanier, who committed to Elon, had 165 kills in her senior year. She finished with 671 career kills, the second-highest total in school history. Lanier had a season-high 14 kills against Orange on September 6, on a night where the Red Wolves were without Benkowitz. On August 27, Lanier had eleven kills in a sweep of Green Level, the 2021 4A State Champions, in Garner. Lanier also finished with 33 blocks, which led the team.

Young, in her third varsity season, committed to UNC Asheville last year. She led the team with 292 digs and finished her career with 623 digs. Young had a career-high 86 assists as she would occasionally play as a setter. She had a season-high 24 digs in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs against Orange. She also had 21 digs against Walter Williams on October 11. She is currently playing basketball for head coach Megan Skouby, who is also an assistant in volleyball.

Benkowitz, who transferred from East Chapel Hill at the beginning of 2021, provided a priceless attacking presence for the Red Wolves to take the load off of Lloyd and Lanier. Benkowitz was third on the team with 143 kills. Over the course of her two seasons with Cedar Ridge, Benkowitz had 331 kills with 75 aces, 325 digs and 346 service receptions. This season, Benkowitz had three matches where she finished with double-digit kills. She had a career-high eleven kills against Walter Williams on October 11. She also had ten kills in a sweep of Person on September 22, as well as ten kills against Eastern Alamance on October 4.

Cedar Ridge only had three matches all season where they dropped a set. After the 3-1 loss to Rose to open the season, the Red Wolves won its subsequent 20 matches without dropping a set. Overall, they won 62 straight sets before dropping the third set against Orange in the Central Carolina Conference tournament championship match on October 19.




Two Cents from the Franklin Mint: To Cheer or Not to Cheer

By Jon Franklin

The 2022 volleyball season saw the Cedar Ridge Lady Wolves and Orange Lady Panthers engage in some memorable moments. But it also resulted in an unnecessary overreach affecting the game day experience.

At the 3A Eastern Regional Final in Greenville on November 1, the Cedar Ridge reign as defending state champions ended abruptly by the J.H. Rose Rampants. During the first set, play was halted several times as game officials determined that serves were being disrupted from both sides as a result of spectators making noise and allegedly making comments that were considered “demeaning, defamatory, and/or unsportsmanlike”.

Rose athletic director Clay Medlin and Cedar Ridge AD Andy Simmons were summoned to the chair as the officials directed their respective student sections to maintain decorum and not make noise during service. When this conventional method proved futile, play was stopped again. Medlin upped the ante and used the public address system to inform the patrons in “The Rose Garden” that silence must be observed on all serve attempts or face removal from the building. While not fully adhered, it did allow the game to continue without interruption.

This wasn’t the first time that a Cedar Ridge volleyball game was stopped due to “fan verbal interference”.

A similar incident also took place this season at the HighSchoolOT Invitational in Garner. The silly barking and meowing from The Wolfpack prompted Garner’s director of athletics to personally shut down Cedar Ridge’s fans. I’ve also been informed that Orange volleyball games have been affected as well.

From my chair as public address announcer, play-by-play announcer, color analyst, or fan, I’ve observed five different occurrences since 2019 where officials stopped play to a Cedar Ridge volleyball match either due to “fan verbal interference” or even to prevent me from performing public address duties.

From my research and from asking several volleyball coaches about this issue, there are no rules in the volleyball handbook that prevents fans from making noise during volleyball service – as officially issued by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) or the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

However, the NFHS puts out “Points of Emphasis”. These released bullet points stem from the NFHS volleyball rulebook about what needs to be enforced during games. The 2022 “Point of Emphasis” under ‘Sportsmanship’ (https://rules.nfhs.org/sports-resource-content/volleyball-points-of-emphasis-2022-23) contained this excerpt:

Sportsmanship, or good sporting behavior, is about treating one another with respect and exhibiting appropriate behavior. It is about being fair, honest and caring. When these types of appropriate behavior occur, competitive play is more enjoyable for everyone.


Coaches set the tone at athletic contests with their display of sportsmanship. If these individuals act in a sportsmanlike manner, their behavior sets the tone for players, spectators and others. If coaches, however, are complaining constantly about the decision of contest officials, spectators are more likely to do the same.


There must be a collaborative, working relationship between contest officials and game administration to promote good sportsmanship and safely conduct the contest. Everyone has their roles to play in creating a positive, sportsmanlike atmosphere at contests.

Officials should focus on the actions of players, coaches and other bench/sideline personnel. A positive, open line of communication between officials and coaches ultimately results in a better contest for everyone involved.


Contest officials, however, should never engage with spectators who are exhibiting unsporting behavior. Once the contest begins, school administration is responsible for dealing with unruly spectators. A proactive approach by school administration includes monitoring the behavior of spectators and intervening as needed.


If spectators are using demeaning or profane language at officials – or at others in the stands – those individuals should be removed from the contest by school administration…

No matter where I have been, egregiously bad spectator behavior has always been dealt with by a school’s administration or game management personnel. Whether an official reprimand or a removal took place, schools generally and genuinely know how to nip unwarranted behavior in the bud. Yet, nowhere in my 30 years of announcing and 35 years of being a fan of high school athletics have I seen game officials arbitrarily create rules that simply do not exist. In the instances of “fan verbal interference”, coaches have pressed the officials to go to the rulebook to see where such rules actually exist. Instead, officials pushed back stating it “violated sportsmanship rules” without citing what they actually were.

On several occasions, I was temporarily stopped from announcing citing a misinterpretation of an actual rule that forbids music and announcements from being made during live game action. In Cedar Ridge’s 2021 game versus D.H. Conley in Hillsborough, the floor umpire stopped the game several times in the first set citing the misinterpreted rule. I remained silent until midway through the set when AD Simmons discussed the issue with the chair umpire. Through AD Simmons’ advocacy, the chair umpire agreed that I could announce as long as it was not during play and must cease at the ready for serve whistle. Had these officials actually been to any of the games I had previously announced, they would have seen and heard that I never announce or play music during live game action to begin with.

To be completely honest, what is being seen by game officials and the NCHSAA are good volleyball programs are starting to emulate collegiate environments with music, cheering, chanting, and the use of a public address announcer. While most schools do not have these things for volleyball, having them might seem overwhelming for some officials and feel they are losing control of the match. Perhaps they should take field trips to J.H. Rose, D.H. Conley, North Iredell, Fred T. Foard, Kings Mountain, Enka, West Henderson and other North Carolina volleyball powerhouses to see how their energetic game day experiences in volleyball can be managed.

In both instances, NCHSAA game officials have created or inserted rules to where no rules are given or are vague. Yet, these rules are not enforced with any consistency. What took place between Cedar Ridge and Rose and D.H. Conley, wasn’t enforced between Cedar Ridge and Orange, or of most opponents of the Hillsborough schools. In the vast majority of games played, game officials seemed to interpret that the noise during serve was fine. Either way, no consistency was made to enforce a rule that was vague from the beginning.

Another issue of concern regarding fan participation involved coaching. Back on September 14th, Southern Alamance came to Hillsborough for a game at Cedar Ridge. With the Red Wolves maintaining a modest lead in the first set, the Patriots’ head coach began to complain about the Cedar Ridge students making noise during service.

Play was halted for several minutes as the floor umpire approached me and asked that an announcement be made that noise by spectators could not be made during service. At that point, I refused to make that announcement as I was not Cedar Ridge’s game manager nor was I in position to tell our fans to be quiet when they did not do or say anything that was unsportsmanlike. I called for AD Andy Simmons to come to the scoring table to be notified of the issue. When informed, Simmons along with Cedar Ridge coaches began to ask where in the official rules was fan noise prohibited during serve. As previously mentioned, the floor umpire used the blanket coverage of “sportsmanship” to enforce a rule that did not exist.

After a pause of bickering, Cedar Ridge relented to resume the game, and the Wolfpack acquiesced. But in the protest, Cedar Ridge faced a noticeable delay and eventually lost the advantage and momentum. While Cedar Ridge would eventually win the first set and eventually swept the match, the fact that the Patriots’ coach interjected himself into the match to help his team by a non-athletic reason was evident. After the game, I was notified by an eyewitness that the Southern Alamance coach utilized the same tactic in the match at Orange on August 22nd. At no time should a coach use this tactic to help their team, especially when they are losing. If a coach has to resolve to underhanded tactics to improve their team in a game, then that coach needs to resign in disgrace. A coach must maintain a high degree of integrity to not only lead their team to victory, but to also to make decisions within the framework of the rules. When a coach interprets the rules as to how it benefits them and not to ensure fairness among both teams, then the coach has lost any credibility.

Throughout the NCAA volleyball season, I have watched numerous games to where the fans making noise on serve is prevalent. The current rules and its’ enforcement within the NCHSAA are not going to benefit players with collegiate aspirations. With numerous players from Hillsborough fixing to ascend to the collegiate ranks, they all need to be exposed to the noise so they can learn how to play in hostile environments.

Imagine playing at defending national champion Wisconsin at the Kohl Center among 18,000 rabid Badgers, or at the KFC Yum Center against Final Four contender Louisville packed with 21,500 screaming Cardinals? What about encountering the 12,500 members of The Oakland Zoo at the Petersen Events Center at another Final Four participant in Pitt? No matter the environment, the student athletes playing in all sports need to acclimate themselves to raucous environments. As Jeff Hamlin has told me numerous times about this issue, “Volleyball is not Tennis. Get past the crowd and put the ball over the net.”

So what if you don’t play volleyball? What if you are a basketball player shooting free throws in a contested game with time winding down? Will the referees stop the crowds from making noise in order to throw you off? What if you are a pitcher in baseball or softball in a tied game in the late innings? Will the umpires silence spectators as you’re about to pitch? Unfortunately for student-athletes, what we saw in volleyball may not be relegated to volleyball in the future. It’s possible that hot student sections and fan bases could be extinguished in other sports – all in the name of “sportsmanship”.

This issue brings up a life lesson. If approached with an aggressive situation, how do you handle it? Do you succumb to the pressure, or do you rise above it through critical thinking and assertive action? If anything from the NFHS and NCHSAA, they want the pressure removed so you don’t face it. But as we all know, this never happens in life. At no time in life will pressure be removed so you can face more easier challenges. So why can’t our children, our students, and our players learn to overcome obstacles that face them head on?

As the landscape of high school athletics continues to change, one thing needs to be realized: Life goes on and doesn’t change under the guise of “Sportsmanship”. Challenges in life will either make you bitter or make you better. As we all are at the mountain, many will remain at base camp while some will make the climb. For a select number, they will ascend to the summit and declare victory. Don’t be afraid to start your journey towards victory despite a challenge before you. While you’re there, cheer on others in their climb towards victory.

My take on the issue? As long as the fans are respectful and not saying anything derogatory or defamatory –

Let the fans cheer. If they act in an unbecoming way, remove them from the gym. If the offenses are repetitive, the offender(s) must face suspension from attending games. But if they’re just cheering, making noise, and having a good time – let them be fans. Fans often go to games to release stress, hang out with friends, and to have a good time. If the rules continue to suppress fan involvement, then sooner or later there will be no fans at high school sporting events.

The Amazing Journey ends; J.H. Rose sweeps Cedar Ridge volleyball for 3A East title

GREENVILLE–The city of Greenville will always be linked to the most successful senior volleyball class in Cedar Ridge history.

It’s where the Red Wolves suffered its first loss under head coach Fiona Cunningham. It’s where they first served notice to the rest of North Carolina that there were a state championship contender, a dream they later fulfilled in 2021.

Now, It’s where their unparalleled run in Hillsborough volleyball history has ended.

After their first meeting in August, when J.H. Rose defeated the Red Wolves in four sets, the Rampants spent the whole season ranked #1 in the 3A East Region while Cedar Ridge was #2. As both teams disposed of one conference opponent after another, almost always in straight sets, it seemed destined that they would collide in the Eastern Regional Championship match.

On Tuesday night, the inevitable battle finally took place, but it was anticlimactic.

The Rampants (28-1) rolled to a 3-0 win over the Red Wolves in front of a crowded gymnasium at Rose High on scores of 25-17, 25-20 and 25-17. J.H. Rose will face North Iredell for the 3A State Championship on Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

Going into Tuesday, the theme around Cedar Ridge circles was redemption after the August loss to the Rampants. Red Wolves coach Fiona Cunningham wasn’t on the sidelines for the initial matchup because of illness. Cedar Ridge had beaten the Rampants in three sets last November to win the Eastern Regional championship, which led to expectations around Red Wolves Gymnasium that the defending 3A State Champions would rise again with another championship on the line.

Instead, the Red Wolves turned in a disjointed, rhythmless performance that was even more lopsided than last summer’s season-opener. The loss ended Cedar Ridge’s 25-game winning streak. Rose will go into the state championship match on a 66-set winning streak, having won 22 straight.

“I think that Rose showed up and played a better game today,” Cunningham said. “They absolutely deserved the win today and they played great. Their confidence was the difference in the match. They felt like it was theirs to take. We played like we were trying not to lose.”

The Rampants superior size wrecked havoc on the Red Wolves attackers. Powerful strokes by Red Wolf seniors Cameron Lloyd and Melissa Benkowitz that ordinarily would have fallen to the hardwood were dug up by Rose’s defensive corps of libero Forbes Hall, Riley Cutler and Anna Bayes. After Lloyd notched the first point of the match, the Rampants reeled off four in a row. Rose outscored Cedar Ridge 14-5 on service points in the opening set. Cedar Ridge’s only rally in the opening frame came off consecutive kills by Lloyd and Anaya Carter, which only narrowed the deficit to 23-16. Rampants middle blocker Helen Wilford, who has committed to Bowling Green, spiked home a kill to end the brief run.

In the second set, Cedar Ridge jumped out to its largest lead of the match at 4-1 behind an early block from Addie Reid, a kill from Lloyd and an ace from Julie Altieri. The Rampants quickly erased the early dry spell with a 6-1 spree behind kills from Anna Bayes and Amelia Taft. Rose would widen the advantage to 19-12 and eventually take the set behind a spike from Taft, who has committed to play beach volleyball at LSU.

At this point, the only way for Cedar Ridge to win would be to take a five-set victory, something they haven’t done since October 1, 2019. Rose dashed what little hopes remained immediately with a 6-1 spurt to start the third set, keyed by two aces from Taft. The Rose lead grew to 18-10 and they claimed match point on a center line violation.

Several of the Cedar Ridge seniors, many of whom grew up playing together in White Cross when they were in elementary school, were in tears in the postgame huddle. Some remained inconsolable as fans left the gymnasium.

“I told the girls that one game doesn’t determine your season,” Cunningham said. “One game doesn’t determine your careers. They have changed this program forever and we will reap the benefits that these seniors have given us for years to come in how they’ve changed Hillsborough volleyball.”

During the pandemic year of 2020-2021, Cedar Ridge won the first of its seven championships when they captured the Big 8 Regular Season title with an undefeated league mark. They lost to D.H. Conley in front of a limited crowd (due to COVID-19) in four sets in Greenville in the 3A State Playoffs. Six months later, after Conley won the 3A State Championship, the Red Wolves returned to Greenville and swept the Vikings, the first sign that something special was brewing.

Last November, Cedar Ridge took the pregame walk of champions under the spotlight at Reynolds Coliseum in its state championship match against North Iredell. They basked in the glory of starting introductions in a darkened arena, jumped off the bench when an improbable dig by Young somehow fell to the other end of the floor in the fourth set, then mobbed together in a pileup after Lloyd scored match point to deliver the first female team state championship in Cedar Ridge history.

In August, with all of their rotation players back, plus the addition of freshman Claire Hargett, there was no reason to think Cedar Ridge couldn’t experience it again.

The hardest part of repeating is running into a team that may be just a bit healthier and bigger at the right time. How many other 3A teams could say they were truly better than Cedar Ridge?

In 2022, there was one. There was only one.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Cameron Lanier

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior middle blocker Cameron Lanier. Through the course of her four years at Cedar Ridge, Lanier is just the second player in school history to reach 500 career kills. She actually surpassed the mark last year during the 3A State Championship match when the Red Wolves defeated North Iredell at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. The funny thing is that volleyball wasn’t Lanier’s first choice of sport when she was growing up. In her adolescent years, Lanier was a softball player. Once she moved to the hardwood, she adapted quickly. Lanier was a starter during her freshman year at Cedar Ridge. Since then, she has won seven championships, including three conference regular season championships, two conference tournaments and a regional title, along with the state championship. Earlier this year, Lanier announced she would attend Elon University to play volleyball. She will go down as a vital member of the volleyball class of 2023, which has a career-record of 83-10 as of now. In her career, she has 623 kills and has won eleven state playoff matches. On Tuesday night, Cedar Ridge will travel to Greenville to face J.H. Rose for the 3A Eastern Regional Championship.

Cedar Ridge volleyball sweeps Hunt in final match in Hillsborough, faces Rose in State Semis

Over the last four years, the senior class of the Cedar Ridge volleyball team has scored 3,714 points at home.

It would have been more if they had played more than three home games during the pandemic year of 2020-2021.

While Saturday’s 3-0 win over Wilson Hunt (23-5) in the 3A NCHSAA State Quarterfinals will go down as Cedar Ridge’s 24th sweep in 25 wins, it was also the seniors’ final win inside Red Wolves Gymnasium. In a year where suspense has yielded to dominance, the final five points ever scored by the Cedar Ridge seniors at home are emblematic of the excellence and mental toughness that has become their hallmark.

Ahead by two sets against Wilson Hunt, the Warriors largely controlled play in the third frame behind the play of junior Gracelynn Wolzen and senior Alex Williams, who surpassed 1,000 career kills in her final game.

The Warriors, who led 17-12 at one point in the third set, were only two points from the set after a kill from senior Kayla Haley, who injured her knee earlier in the match and couldn’t even stand during team huddles.

With Cedar Ridge (25-1) trailing 23-20, the Red Wolves seniors took their final bow in Hillsborough and left a mark that will live forever.

It started when Cameron Lloyd, who finished with 13 kills, spiked home a cross-court pass from junior Rachel Alverson.

Cedar Ridge coach Fiona Cunningham immediately put in senior Julie Altieri, who has made aces and assists her trademark since she was a freshman on the varsity. Isolating on Hunt libero Lanier Johnson, Altieri fired a line drive that skipped off Johnson’s fists and into the front row of bleachers, propelling the Red Wolves student section into hysteria.

After a timeout, Altieri aimed at Johnson again, who ducked her head on what was, to the truest sense of the term, a headhunter. The ball sailed over Johnson’s back and landed firmly in the upper left corner for another ace to tie the set.

Of course, the storybook way for the senior class to close out its last home game would be for the school’s all-time assist leader to set up the school’s all-time kills leader. Which is exactly what happened on the final two points.

After Johnson made a dig on Lloyd’s first attack, senior Melissa Benkowitz bumped it to Altieri. Lloyd took the pass and opted for a soft tap that was briefly kept alive by middle blocker Audrey Earp, but quickly fell to the floor.

Altieri set the Fike defense off balance on match point when her serve had to be chased down by setter Ashton Frazier. After Addie Reid got the dig, it was Altieri to Lloyd one final time inside Red Wolves Gymnasium.

The smooth swing sent the ball crashing to the floor between three outstretched fists of Hunt players who all dove in vain. Really, it looked no different than hundreds of points before it which Altieri had set up for Lloyd. The only thing special about it was it’s the last time it will happen in Hillsborough.

“Cameron really stepped up when we needed her in that third set,” Cunningham said. “She was really a consistent force for us.”

Hunt, who went undefeated in the Quad County Conference, quickly fell behind in the first set due to Cedar Ridge’s serving. Altieri and Benkowitz each recorded aces during Cedar Ridge’s 9-4 run to open the match. After the Warriors closed the gap to 10-7, a block by Reid triggered a 9-3 spurt that put the Red Wolves in control of the set. Lloyd had three kills during the run. Cameron Lanier, who finished with eight kills, earned set point off an assist from Alverson.

The second set was even at 8-8 before the Red Wolves went on another of its patented sprees. This time it was a 10-2 run that was triggered by a thunderous kill by Lanier. Senior libero Grace Young recorded three straight aces to build the Red Wolves’ advantage to 22-12. Alverson had a quick kill, her only one of the day, to put the Red Wolves ahead two sets.

Cedar Ridge recorded 13 aces, including four by Benkowitz. Altieri and Young each had three. Alverson finished with eight assists.

Now Cedar Ridge will venture back to where its 2022 journey started. They will face J.H. Rose in Greenville for the Eastern Regional Championship on Tuesday night. Last November, the Red Wolves swept the Rampants to win the regional championship in Hillsborough.

On August 18, in the Red Wolves’ season-opener, the Rampants got revenge in a 3-1 victory in Greenville. It’s Cedar Ridge’s only loss of the season. They’ve lost just one set since then.

J.H. Rose, the champions of the 4A/3A Big East Conference and the #1 East seed, has won 30 in a row at home.

Cunningham, who was sick the night of the August matchup against the Rampants, isn’t expecting another sweep by anybody on Tuesday night.

“It’s going to be about who is more calm, cool and collected,” Cunningham said. “Both teams are phenomenal. Both teams are gonna play their absolute best that day and I can promise it’s going to be more than three sets one way or the other. Neither team has much experience this year going to sets four and five. So it’s going to be a lot about who can stay composed and who can keep pushing through to the end.”

Cedar Ridge’s Cameron Lloyd & Julie Altieri discuss volleyball reaching the state semifinals

It was the 45th and final home game for the Cedar Ridge volleyball team’s class of 2024 on Saturday afternoon. They made it an afternoon worth remembering as the Red Wolves defeated Wilson Hunt 3-0 on scores of 25-15, 25-15 and 25-23 in the state quarterfinals. The Cedar Ridge senior class end their careers with a record of 42-3 inside Red Wolves Gymnasium, winning its last 28 home matches. With the Red Wolves trailing 23-21, senior setter Julie Altieri stepped back and delivered two straight aces to even the match. Altieri fed senior Cameron Lloyd for the final two points of the match. Lloyd finished with 13 kills, two assists and one ace in her final match in Hillsborough. Altieri, who is nearing over 2,000 assists for her career, came away with 23 assists and three aces. The Red Wolves have won 25 matches in a row. The senior class has a career record of 83-10. On Tuesday night, the Red Wolves will journey to Greenville to continue the season where it starter—against J.H. Rose. The Rampants are the only team to beat the Red Wolves this season. It was will be for the 3A Eastern Regional Championship. The two teams met for the East Region championship last year, with Cedar Ridge coming away with a 3-1 victory.