Hillsborough has seen some fantastic high school sports teams roll through the area. This year, one group has stood out from the rest. The Cedar Ridge Volleyball team has been a dominant force, generating interest in the program’s varsity team. The squad, which is 7-0 so far this season, has rolled past every opponent it has faced thus far without dropping a set.
This season, players and coaches alike are looking to take the team to the next level as they eye a state championship run.
“I see the team as being able to make a deep run into the state championship tournament, for many reasons.” Head Coach Fiona Cunningham said. “One, we’re a talented group with a very balanced team. Two, the girls really want it. They want to push as far as they can into states, and they were all hoping that we find ourselves in the state championship match.”
Even with such high expectations for itself, the team has lived up to the hype. Earlier this season, the team traveled to Greenville to take on D.H. Conley. Conley, the defending 3A state champions, was the only team to beat Cedar Ridge last year. The Red Wolves took the match 3-0, winning a game that the players won’t forget anytime soon.
“We were so excited,” junior Cameron Lanier said. “Fiona even told us like, do your job first, you know, wave to them, be respectful” she continued. “But we all just like went so crazy. It was just such a happy moment. I mean, it was great because it was all of us as a team, so we were all cheering together.”
The success has come with some obstacles, but the team has stayed determined.
“It’s always hard to replicate a game environment,” Cunningham said. “I’d say we’re still getting, you know, conscious of staying healthy, staying safe, the COVID protocols. Those are something that are always at the forefront of all of our minds.”
Junior Cameron Lloyd added on to Coach Cummingham’s comments, saying “Another obstacle is we’re one of the top teams in our conference and 3A, so it’s another hard way to prepare for states because we don’t have as much competition. So we can’t really get those game-like situations that we’re gonna have when we go to states.
Tough practices, time spent analyzing film, and overcoming obstacles that other programs might struggle with has put the Red Wolves on a sky-high trajectory. Fans of the program are beginning to show large amounts of support as the team gains further traction.
“The first couple games like before school started, we didn’t have many students because we couldn’t really get the word out,” said Cameron Lloyd. “But we had our first home game Monday, and it was crazy. There was a lot of students there we didn’t think were gonna be there.” she said.
According to Lloyd and Lanier, the students have begun to have themes for games, adding to the supporting environment. “I would also say, like, it’s just really fun to see the people that you see in school come out to a game and supporting you,” added Lanier.
But Cummingham wants to make sure that the program succeeds into the future, which she says the team is doing while they connect to the community.
“One of the biggest things that our girls want to instill is getting Cedar Ridge to not just be a one and done or a, you know, a few years of success. We want to build on that in the community,” said Cunningham. “We have multiple girls who volunteer with Volley 101, at the smaller clubs in the area or the younger age groups in the area. We have player outreach, and we’re starting to see that pay off with getting more players interested in volleyball, getting more people out to the games, and community members engaged in the sport.
Ryan Ray is a senior at Orange High School. He is interning for the News of Orange.