Cedar Ridge Volleyball

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Rachel Alverson

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior setter Rachel Alverson. This season, the Red Wolf volleyball team won the Central Conference Tournament. Alverson eclipsed 1,000 career assists as the Red Wolves reached the third round of the state playoffs with a 17-9 record. It was the fourth year in a row that Cedar Ridge reached the round of 16 in the state playoffs. Alverson filled the role of three-time All-Conference selection Julie Altieri as the Red Wolves setter and thrived. She had 928 assists in 2023, which is believed to be a school record. Altieri’s best was 717 in 2021. Alverson had 52 assists in a five-set win at East Chapel Hill on September 11. She recorded 47 assists against Person on September 21. In the Central Conference Tournament championship match, Alverson had 51 assists as the Red Wolves handed Orange its only loss against a league opponent this season. Alverson is also on the women’s soccer team, where she was joined by her volleyball teammate Addie Reid. Alverson was a member of the 2021 3A State Championship team that defeated North Iredell at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh. After she graduates in June, Alverson will look to pursue a career in teaching.

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Addie Reid

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior middle blocker Addie Reid. Recently, Addie concluded her volleyball career at Cedar Ridge in the third round of the state playoffs with a loss to J.H. Rose. It was a career full of championships for Reid. She was a regular rotation player for the 2021 3A State Championship squad. Against North Iredell in the state title match, Reid had eight kills and two blocks. In October, Reid won her seventh championship with the Cedar Ridge volleyball team when they defeated Orange 3-1 to win the Central Carolina Conference Tournament title. Against the Lady Panthers, Reid had 12 kills and four blocks. In her final three years with Cedar Ridge, Reid had an overall record of 73-13. Reid is a three-sport athlete. Last year, she was the starting center for the Cedar Ridge women’s basketball team. In her sophomore and junior seasons, she served as the goalkeeper for the Cedar Ridge women’s soccer team, where she made All-Central Conference last spring. In addition, Reid was named the Homecoming Queen during Cedar Ridge’s football game against Person on September. This season in volleyball, Reid finished third on the team with 180 kills. She led the squad with 54 blocks. As Reid volleyball career ends, her trademark thunderous kills that always ignited the Red Wolves fans, along with her team, will forever be remembered by Cedar Ridge faithful around Orange County and beyond.

Alumni Update: Altieri concludes freshman year in NCAA Tournament

Julie Altieri: The Salisbury Seagulls volleyball team ended its season in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on November 17. Salisbury was one point away from getting swept in the opening round against Williams College Ephs, but mounted a remarkable comeback to win 3-2 at Rockwell Cage at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on November 16 in Cambridge, MA. The Seagulls prevailed on scores of 18-25, 20-25, 26-24, 25-21, 15-10. Altieri finished with 40 assists, 12 digs, seven kills and two aces. In the second round, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps defeated the Seagulls 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-18). Altieri had 22 assists, six digs, two kills and one ace. Salisbury ends the season 21-8 and the champions of the Coast-to-Coast Conference Tournament. It was the first time that Salisbury won games in the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years since 2011-2012. Altieri ends her freshman year with a team-high 694 assists. She was third on the squad with 225 digs and 31 aces. Altieri also had 87 kills.

Lottie Scully: The Binghamton Bearcats volleyball team reached the championship match of the America East Tournament, where they lost to the University of Maryland-Baltimore County inside Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore on November 18. In the semifinals, the Bearcats defeated New Hampshire 3-2, avenging a loss in the regular season finale. The Bearcats fought back from two sets down to win 23-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 15-9. Scully, the sophomore setter for Binghamton, finished with 49 assists, 12 digs, one kill and one ace. In the championship match against UMBC, Scully finished with 23 assists, six digs and one kill. Binghamton ends the year 15-13. Scully led the Bearcats with 679 assists. She was third on the team with 199 digs.

Cameron Lloyd: The Bucknell volleyball team’s season ended with a loss to Navy in the opening round of the Patriot League Tournament. The Midshipmen swept the Bison at Davis Gym in Lewisburg, PA on scores of 25-23, 25-19, 25-23. Lloyd had six kills and 14 digs in the final match of her freshman season. Bucknell ends the year 15-11 overall, 11-5 in the Patriot League. Lloyd played in all 26 matches for the Bison this year. She was third on the team with 168 kills and 250 digs. Lloyd has 26 aces and 21 blocks.

Anaya Carter: The Division II UNC Pembroke team had its season end in the championship match of the Conference Carolinas Tournament inside the North Charleston Athletic Center in Charleston, S.C. Emmanuel defeated the Braves 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21). UNC Pembroke went 21-14 overall, 12-5 in Conference Carolinas. Carter played in 15 matches and finished with 26 kills and 94 digs in her freshman year.

Payton Wilson: Wilson was named the ACC Linebacker of the Week for the fifth time this season on Monday. It came after the Wolfpack dominated archrival North Carolina 39-20 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh on Saturday night. Wilson, who received an enormous ovation as he was introduced last on his senior night, led the Wolfpack in tackles for the tenth time this season. Wilson had 15 tackles as the Wolfpack held the Tar Heels to its lowest point total of the season. He also tallied two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception. Wilson was also named a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s top linebacker. He is the first N.C. State player to be named a finalist for the Butkus Award. Wilson concluded the regular season leading the Wolfpack in five different categories. He had 138 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions (tied for the team lead), ten quarterback hits, and two fumble recoveries. He is second on the team with six sacks and also had six pass breakups. The Wolfpack will learn its destination this Sunday. Wilson concludes his career 3-2 against North Carolina with three straight victories. The Wolfpack end the regular season 9-3 overall, 6-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Wynston Brown: Brown spent this season with the Division III Methodist football team. The Monarchs ended the year 2-8, 2-5 in the USA South Athletic Conference. Brown was a quarterback and wide receiver for the Orange Panthers before he graduated in June.

Volleyball Alumni Update: Altieri honored as Salisbury wins Coast-to-Coast Conference title

Julie Altieri: For the first time since 2012, the Salisbury Seagulls won the Coast-to-Coast Conference Tournament championship. On Saturday, Salisbury defeated Mary Washington 3-2 on scores of 25-20, 23-25, 22-25, 25-11, 15-13. Altieri, a freshman, was named to the All-Tournament team. Altieri had 49 assists, 15 digs, seven kills and one ace in the championship match. With the win, the Seagulls have reached the NCAA Division III Tournament for the 11th time in program history and the second time in as many years. In the semifinals on Friday, Salisbury defeated Christopher Newport 3-1 at the Maggs Physical Activities Center (25-23, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21). Altieri, who became the starting setter about one-third of the way into the season, finished with 36 assists, 13 digs, two aces and one kill. Salisbury is 20-7 going into the NCAA Tournament.

Lottie Scully: The Binghamton Bearcats ended its regular season with a 3-0 loss to the University of New Hampshire on Sunday (25-22, 25-20, 25-19) at Lundholm Gymnasium in Durham, NH. Scully finished with 29 assists, nine digs and two kills. On November 8, the Bearcats defeated Manhattan College 3-1 at Draddy Gymnasium in Riverdale, NY. Scully came away with 43 assists, nine digs, two kills, and two aces. Binghamton concludes the regular season 14-12, 6-4 in the America East Conference. Binghamton will face New Hampshire for the America East Championshp on Friday in Baltimore.

Cameron Lanier: Elon ended its season with a 3-1 loss to Delaware at the Schar Center on Sunday. Lanier finished with six kills and five digs. The Blue Hens prevailed on scores of 19-25, 25-18, 25-21 and 27-25. On Saturday, Delaware swept the Phoenix 3-0 (25-16, 26-24, 25-22). Lanier played in two sets and had one kill and one dig. Elon swept a two-match series from Hampton on October 28 and 29, it’s only wins in the Coastal Athletic Association this season. On October 28, the Phoenix won 3-0 at the Schar Center. Lanier had seven kills and six digs. On October 29, the Phoenix defeated the Pirates 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-14). Lanier was tied with the team lead with ten kills, along with two digs and one block. Elon finished 5-22 overall, 2-16 in the CAA. Lanier finished her freshman season second on the team with 221 kills. The only player with more was Sydney Love, a junior who had 230. She also had six blocks.

Cameron Lloyd: The Bucknell Bison ended its regular season with a loss to American University 3-0 inside Bender Arena in Washington, D.C. on Saturday. Lloyd had four kills, 12 digs and three aces. On November 5, the Bison defeated in-state rival Lehigh 3-1 at Davis Gymnasium in Lewisburg, PA. Lloyd provided a strong second option for the Bison. She finished with ten kills, along with ten digs and three aces. On November 4, Bucknell swept Lafayette 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-16). Lloyd had seven kills, eight digs and two aces. Lehigh will start play in the Patriot League Tournament against Navy on Tuesday at Davis Gymnasium.

Grace Young: UNC Asheville ended its season with a 3-1 win over USC Upstate at the Justice Center in Asheville on Saturday. Young played in all four sets and finished with seven digs and four assists. On November 4, Gardner-Webb defeated the Bulldogs at the Justice Center. Young played in one set and had three digs, one assist and one ace. UNC Asheville finished with an 8-20 overall record, 2-12 in the Big South. For her freshman year, Young played in 46 sets and had 52 digs and 12 aces.

Allie Wilkerson: The season ended for Division III Averett University in the semifinals of the Old Dominion Athletic Conference on Thursday. Randolph-Macon defeated the Cougars 3-1 (21-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-16) at Crenshaw Gymnasium in Ashland, VA. Wilkerson had one kill and two blocks for Averett. In the quarterfinals, Averett defeated Bridgewater 3-1 at Niniger Hall in Bridgewater, VA (17-25, 27-25, 25-15, 25-22). Wilkerson had five kills, one dig and one ace. Averett ends the season 14-17, 7-5 in the ODAC. This season, Wilkerson was third on the team with 153 kills. She had 16 aces and 44 digs.

Melissa Benkowitz: The season of Division III Franklin & Marshall ended in the semifinals of the Centennial Conference Tournament. Gettysburg edged the Diplomats 3-2 (25-18, 17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 15-10). Benkowitz had two digs in her only set of action. In the quarterfinals, Franklin & Marshall defeated Muhlenburg 3-1 (25-23, 25-7, 22-25, 25-20). Benkowitz, in her freshman season, played in 12 of the Diplomats 26 matches. She had 61 kills in 33 sets.

The Magnificent 7, Week 10: Farewell to a joyous Fall

When you pull into Reynolds Coliseum on the first Saturday in November, you know one of the teams you’re covering has done something right.

Two years ago, the Cedar Ridge volleyball team was that squad. Last Saturday, it was Orange volleyball’s turn.

And what a day it was. Not just in Raleigh, but also in Kernersville. Gabriel Schmid ended the most accomplished cross country career in Orange High history with a first-place finish at the 3A State Championships at the Ivey Redmon Sports Complex. The only regret I have on the day was that Orange volleyball’s state championship match against Kings Mountain started at noon. Originally, the match was slated to start at 7, which would have allowed a lot of Orange officials to make a full day out of it.

Orange cross country competed for the state title on Saturday morning. They had the best finish of any Orange team ever in a state championship, finishing second behind Croatan.

It was a memorable fall on so many levels. The Cedar Ridge men’s soccer team nearly became the first soccer team in Hillsborough history to win a conference championship. They were one win away. For the first time ever, the Orange men’s soccer team reached the state playoffs in back-to-back years.

Cedar Ridge volleyball captured the Central Carolina Conference Tournament championship. For a squad that lost eight seniors, including the top two attackers in school history in Cameron Lloyd and Cameron Lanier, along with Julie Altieri, Melissa Benkowitz and Anaya Carter, they still banded together to win a conference title. Cedar Ridge was the only team to beat Orange in Panther Gymnasium this year, something that J.H. Rose, Carrboro or Falls Lake couldn’t do.  Cedar Ridge’s senior class, which includes Greylinn Serge, Rachel Alverson, Addie Reid and Natasha Buchler-Fosado, will have a lot to look back on and smile about in the future.

Let’s go back to October 15-21 for this week’s Magnificent 7, the top seven performances from the week in no particular order.

  1. Claire Hargett, Soph. Cedar Ridge: A mammoth performance against Orange in the CCC Tournament championship match. Hargett had a season-high 24 kills as the Red Wolves pulled the upset against Orange. The Red Wolves were the only team in the CCC to beat Orange this year. Cedar Ridge claimed a share of a conference title for the fourth straight year.
  2. Naomi Dyreng, Jr. Cedar Ridge: Dyreng won the CCC women’s cross country individual championship on October 18. Dyreng crossed the finish line at 21:50.18. Her teammate, Abigail Klaitman, came in second at 22:00.56. Cedar Ridge finished second as a team, only behind Walter Williams.
  3. Myles Jermyn, Jr. Orange: While Schmid won the conference championship for Orange men’s cross country, his teammate made sure the Panthers captured the team championship for the third year in a row. Jermyn came in second at 17:37.41. Jermyn’s father is the cross country coach at Elon University. The Orange athletic program has already won two conference championships and two regional championships this year.
  4. Erik Galunas, Soph, Cedar Ridge: The Cedar Ridge goalkeeper had a tremendous clean sheet during a scoreless tie against Western Alamance on October 16. Galunas made eight saves. Afterward, head coach Chauncey Brummell thought Galunas played well enough to get signed by a professional academy. He wasn’t joking.
  5. Annabeth Lundberg, Sr. Cedar Ridge: Lundberg won two matches for the Cedar Ridge women’s tennis team in its victory over Orange in the opening round of the 3A State Dual Team Playoffs. Lundberg won at #6 singles, then teamed with Raven Mowles-Airing to win at #3 doubles as the Red Wolves edged the Lady Panthers 5-4 to advance to the second round.
  6. Katie Silcott, Soph. Orange: Had 14 digs and 38 assists against Western Alamance in the CCC Tournament semifinals. Silcott surpassed 1,000 assists for the 2023 season during the 3A State Playoffs, which could very well be a single-season school record. She surpassed 1,000 assists for her career in the final week of the regular season. Is another 1,000 assist season possible for 2024? Orange returns outside hitter Aubrey Jordan and Ava Wilkerson next year. And, likely, in 2025, as well.
  7. Shannon Sollars, Jr. Orange: A strong finish to the season for Sollars. She won both of her matches in Orange’s final dual match of the season against Cedar Ridge. Sollars defeated Ella Caltabiano at #2 singles 6-3, 6-0. She teamed with her sister, Erinn, one final time in a dual match to defeat Cameron Mayhew and Adeline Cummings 9-8 (7-5 tiebreaker).

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Rachel Alverson

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is senior volleyball setter Rachel Alverson. This season, Alverson surpassed 1,000 career assists. Last week, Cedar Ridge helped the Red Wolves upset crosstown rival Orange to win the Central Carolina Conference Tournament at Panther Gymnasium. Against the Lady Panthers, Alverson had a season-high 54 assists. It was the fourth straight year that Cedar Ridge won a conference regular season and/or tournament championship. This year, Alverson finished with over 900 assists. She had 40 or more assists in a game nine times in 2023 for a Cedar Ridge team that finished 17-9. Alverson is a two-sport athlete at Cedar Ridge. She also plays women’s soccer. Alverson’s final win as a Red Wolves volleyball player may go down as her greatest game ever. On Tuesday night at Red Rams Gymnasium, Cedar Ridge defeated Franklinton, The Big East Champions, 3-2 in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs. Alverson finished with 46 assists as the Red Wolves advanced to the Round of 16 in the 3A State Playoffs for the fourth straight year. A trademark of Cedar Ridge teams in 2023 will be Alverson setting up her middle blocker and friend Addie Reid for thunderous kills that always electrified Red Wolves Gymnasium. Alverson will resume her soccer career in February.

Too Tough to Die–Cedar Ridge volleyball outlasts Franklinton in 3-2 thriller, advances to 3rd Round of State Playoffs

The 2023 Cedar Ridge volleyball team lost the school’s all-time leaders in kills, digs, assists and aces from last year’s squad due to graduation.

But they didn’t lose any toughness.

That’s been on full display since last week, when the Red Wolves stunned Orange to capture the Central Carolina Conference Tournament at Panther Gymnasium.

On Tuesday night, in its fifth match in eight days, the Red Wolves fought back from one obstacle after another to defeat Franklinton, champions of The Big East Conference, 3-2 in the second round of the 3A State Playoffs on the Lester Wilder Court. The Red Wolves advanced on scores of 25-21, 20-25, 24-26, 25-12, 15-10.

Cedar Ridge (17-8) will travel to Greenville to face J.H. Rose on Thursday night in the third round. It will be the third straight year that the Rampants and the Red Wolves have faced off in the state playoffs.

Franklinton ends the year 19-6.

Sophomore Claire Hargett finished with 18 kills and 15 digs. Senior Graylinn Serge registereed 14 kills and 20 digs. Setter Rachel Alverson had 46 assists and 13 assists for the Red Wolves, who won its first road state playoff game 2014 when they defeated Northern Guilford in Greensboro, also in five sets.

Every five-set match is a roller coaster ride and Tuesday night was no different. In the final set, Cedar Ridge jumped out to a 4-2 lead following an ace from senior libero Natasha Buchler-Fosado. The Rams came back with five consecutive points, keyed by a kill and an ace from Angelica Turnage. With its season six points from ending, the Red Wolves regrouped after a timeout from head coach Latacha De Oliveira and ended the match on a 9-1 run.

It started when Hargett scored off an assist from Alverson, the first of kills by Hargett during a 5-0 run. Hargett would notch another point to even the set 9-9. After a serve by Cecilia Kenan went long to put Franklinton back in the lead 10-9, the Red Wolves got a side out after a serve by Turnage went long.

Hargett went back to serve and Cedar Ridge never lost possession again. Kenan made two crucial digs off attacks by Franklinton’s Turnage and Ava Shane. Turnage’s next return was out and Cedar Ridge led 11-10. Serge got her only block of the night when she stuffed an attempt by Mikayla Taborn, which led to a Ram timeout. Hargett delivered a knuckleball serve that threw the Rams defense out of sorts. Tierrah Simmons return clipped the antenna. On match point, Hargett served up an ace and the Red Wolves reserves sprang off the bench like they were sitting on ejector seats, mobbing Hargett on a pileup on the Rams home floor.

It was the Red Wolves second five-set win this year, and its first since outlasting East Chapel Hill at Wildcats Gymnasium on September 11.

Cedar Ridge ended Franklinton’s 21-set winning streak in the opening frame, where the Rams scored the first three points. Hargett established herself with six kills in the first set, including one to end a 5-1 run that gave the Red Wolves an 8-5 lead. The Rams responded with a 6-2 run, including an ace from sophomore Kylie Sykes. Cedar Ridge went on a 6-2 spree following a spike from Addie Reid, who had 12 kills on the night, to take a 21-17 lead. On set point, Serge unleashed a swing that sent the ball that hugged the near sideline.

The second set had eight lead changes and seven ties. The Red Wolves were in position to go ahead two-sets-to-nothing after an ace from Buchler-Fosado put them ahead 17-13. Franklinton responded with five straight points, the capper coming off a block from Tabron that evened the set 17-17. The Rams scored the final four points to even the match, with set point coming off a block by Shontalae Evans.

Cedar Ridge was battling from behind the entire third set. An ace from Turnage put the Rams ahead 10-5, but the Red Wolves came back from three straight points, ending with a kill from Reid. Franklinton pushed its lead to 20-12 behind two blocks from Turnage and a kill from Taborn, but the Red Wolves rallied again. Two spikes from sophomore Kayla Stoll and another kill from Serge pulled the Red Wolves within one at 23-22. An ace from Serge evened things at 24-24, but Turnage scored the first point of overtime off a feed from Shane. Taborn got set point off a block.

As dominant as the Red Rams were in the third, Cedar Ridge totally controlled the fourth. Serge started things with an ace on the opening point, which triggered a 9-1 run. Hargett had consecutive aces to put the Red Wolves ahead 22-6. Serge ended the frame with another kill supplied by Alverson.

Cedar Ridge will return to J.H. Rose on Thursday night, which brings back the best of memories from 2021 and dark moments from last year. The Red Wolves won the 3A Eastern Regional championship against the Rampants in Hillsborough two years ago, which led to the crowning moment in women’s sports at Cedar Ridge: the 2021 3A State championship.

Last year, the most successful team senior class in Cedar Ridge history, regardless of sport, had a disappointing end to their careers when the Rampants swept the Red Wolves in a hostile atmosphere in Greenville, once again for the 3A Eastern Regional title. It also turned out to be the final game for Fiona Cunningham, who would later depart the Red Wolves as head coach to become an assistant at North Carolina Central.

The current senior class of Red Wolves won’t go into Greenville with the lofty individual or team numbers that the Class of 2023 did, but they’ll be every bit as gritty.

Cedar Ridge volleyball’s Graylinn Serge, Natasha Buchler-Fosado & Cecilia Kenna talk playoff win over Scotland

It was likely the final home game for the Cedar Ridge volleyball team of the 2023 season on Saturday when they defeated Scotland County in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs. The Red Wolves seniors won their 12th state playoff match in the past four years when they swept the Fighting Scots in Hillsborough. Senior Graylinn Serge finished with six kills and 21 digs as the Red Wolves improved to 43-4 at home since 2020. Senior libero Natasha Buchler-Fosado had eight digs, two aces and one assist against Scotland County. The Red Wolves were coming off winning the Central Carolina Conference Tournament with an upset of Orange on Wednesday night. Against the Lady Panthers, Buchler-Fosado had a career-high 25 digs. It was the fourth straight year that Cedar Ridge won a conference championship. Serge finished with a double-double with 12 kills and 28 digs. Senior Cecilia Kenan had seven digs against Orange. The Red Wolves will look to reach the round of 16 for the fourth straight year on Tuesday night when they journey to Franklinton, the champions of the The Big East Conference. The Rams are 19-5 and have won seven straight matches. The match at Franklinton High will start at 6PM.



A Senior Moment to Remember: Cedar Ridge volleyball stuns Orange 3-1 to win CCC Tournament

In a volleyball season that has been predictable locally, Cedar Ridge went into this week searching for something that previous teams had found.

A special senior moment.

In 2021, Phoenix Smith, Justice Wilborn, and Ava Lowry were members of a state championship squad that defeated North Iredell at Reynolds Coliseum. They were members of the first female team in school history to win a state championship.

Last year, Cameron Lloyd, Cameron Lanier, Julie Altieri, Grace Young, Anaya Carter and Melissa Benkowitz won 62 consecutive sets en route to a Central Carolina Conference regular season and tournament championship.

This year’s group of seniors had not found its senior moment.

Until Wednesday night.

In a stunning upset, Cedar Ridge shocked crosstown rival Orange 3-1 to win the CCC Tournament championship. Sophomore Claire Hargett finished with 23 kills and 14 digs, while senior setter Rachel Alverson had 46 assists and 15 digs as Cedar Ridge ended Orange’s 20-match winning streak.

Orange (22-4) suffered its first loss since August 19 and its first at home this season. The Lady Panthers won both matches in the regular season against Cedar Ridge, never allowing the Red Wolves to take more than 21 points in any of the previous six sets.

Just three weeks ago, Orange defeated the Red Wolves 25-19, 25-19 and 25-11 to sew up the CCC regular season title.

“I knew this has been possible all year,” said Cedar Ridge coach Latacha De Oliveira. “They just had to believe it. Today they believed it and today they showed it. Claire set the tone for us. Claire found holes, no matter how many people tried to block her. She found the holes, she put the ball down and came up with some big swings. I think Addie (Reid) did the same thing. That’s what we needed.”

Orange senior Ella Wimsatt had 15 kills and 20 digs for Orange.

The Lady Panthers won 35 of 36 sets during an undefeated run through the CCC regular season championship, but struggled to find a rhythm offensively on Wednesday night.

“I think that each team has evolved throughout the season,” said Orange coach Hope Heverly. “Cedar Ridge really came out with a lot of drive and desire to win tonight. They came out and had a really good match. We came out and played hard as well. Some of our X’s and O’s weren’t really following through today.”

It’s the third straight year that Cedar Ridge (15-8) has won the CCC Tournament. The Red Wolves have won either a conference regular season or tournament championship each of the past four years.

Less than two weeks ago, Cedar Ridge lost to Western Alamance and Cary Crowns. It was the first time since 2019 that the Red Wolves dropped consecutive matches.

“I think since then they’ve just brought into their game,” De Oliveria said. “They were tired of losing and started believing in themselves. We’ve had a good week. It started with a solid performance on Monday. It continued yesterday and they came in today believing it was our turn.”

Nothing about the environment inside Panther Gymnasium hinted the biggest upset in local volleyball this year was brewing. Orange’s student section didn’t start filling up until late in the first set. Even the once daunting Cedar Ridge student group, which traveled in mass regardless of location as a constant source of amusement or irritation depending on your perspective, had a pedestrian turnout.

They sure missed a stellar presentation from their team.

From the moment Wimsatt knocked over two chairs along the Orange bench trying to chase down an attack by Kayla Stoll on the first point, it was clear that this would be no easy night at the office for anyone. There were six ties in the opening set, but Orange maintained the lead until Hargett served up an ace to trigger a 6-1 Red Wolf run. Hargett, who had five kills and three digs in the opening set, delivered another ace following an Orange timeout to increase Cedar Ridge’s lead to 17-13. The Red Wolves finished the set with the final four points, closing with a thunderous strike by Addie Reid.

It was the first time since September 20 against Falls Lake, a span of eight matches, that Orange dropped the opening set.

Heverly inserted freshman Sawyer White as a setter in the second set, repositioning sophomore Katie Silcott to an outside hitter.

“We wanted to get our right side hitter involved,” Heverly said. “We wanted to broaden our hitting options.”

Orange used superior blocking to take the second set. Neither team could get beyond a two-point lead until White came through with a huge block of an attack by Reid to put Orange ahead 19-16, which greased the wheels for the Panthers best sequence of the night. Wimsatt and Mariah Poole followed with kills, and Silcott evened the match with an ace on set point.

Cedar Ridge responded with a 6-3 run to start the third, which led to Orange playing catch up the whole way. Hargett and Serge each had five kills in the frame, while Cecilia Kenan stroked an ace to put the Red Wolves ahead 11-5. Orange’s patented rally from a bad start never materialized as the Red Wolves’ increased its lead in front of a stunned Panthers student section, which eventually rose as one as the urgency of the situation increased with every Cedar Ridge point. Hargett had a kill to put the Cedar Ridge lead at 20-11. Orange chained together three straight points to trim the gap to 23-16, but it was too late. Alverson delivered a flash kill off a dig by Natasha Buchler-Fosado, and Serge scored set point to a loud road from the Cedar Ridge contingent.

Trailing two-sets-to-one, Heverly used the full three minutes between sets talking to her team in the huddle, but Cedar Ridge roared out of the gate with a 6-1 run to start the fourth, ending with consecutive kills by Stoll. Hargett saved her best for last, racking up seven kills in the fourth set. Orange did rally with three straight points, including an ace by White and a kill by Wimatt, to tie the set 9-9. Cedar Ridge responded with four straight points and never trailed again.

Cedar Ridge reeled off five straight points to increase its lead to 19-11, which included a key block from Reid on an attack by Ava Wilkerson, and two more kills from Hargett.

Orange scored six straight points to make a late charge and cut the Red Wolves lead to 22-18 after a block by Wilkerson. Hargett scored a key strike on a swing that caught the back left corner. On match point, Serge’s strike from the far post rebounded off Aubrey Jordan and went into the stands, setting off a huge celebration as the Red Wolves mobbed each other along the left side of the floor.

Orange, who will still be the #2 overall seed in the East Region for the state playoffs, will look ahead to Saturday and a matchup with Swansboro in the opening round.

“I really do believe that losing a match or losing a set can build character,” Heverly said. “If you’re going to lose, this is the one to lose so that we can rebuild and get ready for a nice run in the state playoffs.”

While the odds are against another deep Cedar Ridge state playoff run, the seniors relished in their championship moment on a memorable night on their archrival’s floor.

“We talked about what we needed to do to beat them and we knew that we needed to change our offense,” De Oliveria said. “In the prior two games against Orange, we haven’t been able to execute as well. We knew we had to keep them out of systems, but in order for us to win we knew we had to be offensively aggressive. Tonight, that’s exactly what happened.”