Cameron Lloyd

Freshman outside hitter Cameron Lloyd rises up for a kill in Cedar Ridge's five-set victory over Orange High School Thursday.

HILLSBOROUGH — Cameron Lloyd’s Cedar Ridge volleyball career has been nothing short of excellent. And each time she made a play Thursday night against Orange High, the Red Wolves’ student section let everyone know.

“She’s our freshman!” they chanted. “She’s our freshman!”

The Panthers’ student section added their own twist, chanting back “She’s your freshman!” each time Lloyd made an error. Unluckily for them, the former outweighed the latter.

Lloyd, playing primarily at outside hitter, had a team-high 18 kills and five aces as Cedar Ridge took down Orange, 3-2, in a five-set thriller (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 14-25, 15-7).

She was especially crucial in the final set that gave the Red Wolves (8-1, 3-0 Big 8) their first win against the Panthers (6-4, 1-1) since 2016. That set was “pretty big,” Lloyd told News of Orange. As for the heckling?

“I didn’t really listen to them,” she said. “Only when the plays were over. We really tried to zone them out.”

Orange head coach Kelly Young told News of Orange that early errors doomed her team, which hadn’t gone into a fifth set all season. That was apparent from the start. In the first set, Orange built a late 22-19 lead, but Cedar Ridge roared back with a 4-1 run to tie things at 23 and force a Panthers timeout.

Senior middle hitter Emma Downing promptly got a kill on the next play, and a Panthers error ended the set. In total, it was a 6-1 run for the Red Wolves — and that comeback proved even more crucial when Orange pulled away for a 25-22 win in the second set.

Cedar Ridge spent that set and the next adjusting on the fly after setter Layne Foster, a junior, left with an injury. A number of players swapped positions partially or permanently. It was “kind of uncomfortable” at first, Lloyd said, but the Red Wolves eventually settled in.

They did it just in time. Orange had built up a 20-15 third-set lead before Cedar Ridge ripped off another timely run — this time, 5-0 — to force a tie. At 23-23, Downing had another clutch, go-ahead kill. And after an Orange error, Cedar Ridge led, 2-1.

“We had moments in the first few sets where we should’ve won if we would’ve just put it away, which we had the ability to do,” Young said. “Sometimes we second-guess ourselves. Sometimes our emotions get the better of us. But that’s what we’ve got to work on.”

The fourth set was Orange’s best. The Panthers got out to a 10-1 lead and rode that hot start to a 25-14 win. Brooke Fryar, Orange’s senior captain and starting libero, told News of Orange the team was “really high in our high moments, low in our low moments.”

If the fourth set was a high, the fifth set was a low.

Cedar Ridge won the first two points and kept that small cushion throughout the set. Orange took timeouts trailing 5-2 and 9-3, but the Panthers couldn’t muster a comeback. Lloyd’s final kill made it 14-7, and an error by Orange ended the set and match.

“That fourth set, we were all a little shaky and getting a little worried,” Lloyd said.” But I think we just really worked as a team and worked to the end in the fifth.”

Young, a 2009 Orange alumna, said she loved the rivalry atmosphere Thursday night. And given the talent of the Big 8 Conference this season — Cedar Ridge, Orange, Chapel Hill and East Chapel Hill are all strong in 2019 — she said there are plenty of positives to take away from a five-set loss to the Red Wolves.

On the winner’s side, Cedar Ridge head coach Anna Seethaler pointed to a Sept. 9 loss at Jordan as a turning point. Since then, her team has pulled out consecutive 3-2 wins against Chapel Hill and, now, Orange.

“I don’t think I said anything,” she said. “I think the pain of losing makes you think a little bit and change habits and patterns and behaviors. And that’s what they decided to do.”