The Cedar Ridge High volleyball squad swept a pair of matches October 19 and 20 over Orange and Person County in the Central Conference Tournament, completing a perfect 14-0 run through Central Conference play this fall and earning the Red Wolves the first-ever Central Conference regular season and tournament titles. With only one senior on their squad, the Red Wolves are poised to be the dominant team in the Central Conference in 2022 as well.
Coming off a 23-2 regular season, including a perfect 12-0 mark in league matches, the Red Wolves geared up for the Central Conference Tournament. As the No. 1 overall seed in the seven-team conference, the Red Wolves got a bye in the opening round. CRHS got a few days off from match action while Person swept Eastern Alamance, Northwood swept Williams, and Orange earned a hard-fought five set victory over Western Alamance in the opening round of the tournament.
In the second round, Cedar Ridge hosted Orange, while Northwood took on Person County. While Person went to Pittsboro and stunned the second-seeded Chargers, eliminating the home team in a three-set sweep, the Red Wolves went to work earning their third victory of the season over their Hillsborough cross-town rivals.
Cedar Ridge, who took six successive sets from Orange in two regular season matches, made quick work of the Panthers in the opening set, dominating OHS 25-8. The Panthers played the powerful Red Wolves a little tougher in the second set, but the result was the same, as CRHS took a 2-0 lead with a 25-17 triumph. The Red Wolves finished off the Panthers in the third set and subsequently ended their season, earning a 25-10 victory to sweep OHS and advance to the Central Conference Tournament championship match.
Against the Panthers, the Red Wolves got another dominant performance from junior standout Cameron Lloyd, who recorded 14 kills and 18 digs. Junior Melissa Benkowitz added nine kills and 14 digs, while another eleventh grader, Cameron Lanier, added seven kills and seven digs. Junior Julie Altiera recorded two service aces and 26 assists, while sophomore Addie Reid recorded five blocks at the net.
In the conference championship match, the Red Wolves hosted third seed Person County at home. The Rockets played tough early on, blocking a would be Cedar Ridge spike to pull within 12-8. Person continued to keep things close, taking advantage of a long shot that stayed in bounds, in addition to another block, to make the score 17-15. But eventually the CRHS depth and size wore the Rockets down.
With sophomore Graylinn Serge serving, Cedar Ridge reeled off three straight points to take a 21-15 lead. Although Person ultimately got back the serve, a spike by Benkowitz gave the Red Wolves a 22-16 advantage. Lloyd punched a loft shot over the Person front line for a 23-16 Red Wolves lead, and an out of bounds shot by the Rockets gave CRHS set point. A tandem block at the net by Altieri and Lanier finished off Person and gave Cedar Ridge the opening set, 25-17.
Person again came out aggressive in the second set, hanging within 6-5 before striking a shot out of bounds. Cedar Ridge took the initiative, as Benkowitz took the serve and the Red Wolves scored four points in a row to force a Rockets timeout. Addie Reid punched a shot over the Rockets for another CRHS point, and a spike by Lloyd gave the Red Wolves seven unanswered points. Reid and Lloyd then blocked a Person County shot at the net, and Benkowitz fired a service ace for a 15-5 Red Wolves advantage. By the time Person finally regained the serve, Cedar Ridge had scored nine straight points. Although Person continued to fight, pulling briefly within 15-8, CRHS eventually regained control. Leading 19-11, the Red Wolves reeled off four more unanswered points to put themselves on the brink of a two-set lead. With a commanding 23-11 cushion, a spike by Lloyd gave the Red Wolves set point. The Rockets held off the Red Wolves on one set point, but another spike by Lloyd finished off the visitors from Roxboro, 25-12.
Cedar Ridge settled the issue in the third set, building an early 12-3 lead to put the Rockets’ backs against the wall. The Red Wolves stretched their lead to 18-8, and eventually to 23-11. Just two points from victory, CRHS took advantage of an out of bounds shot by the Rockets to regain the serve on set point, leading 24-12. A blistering spike by Lanier sealed the victory, as Cedar Ridge claimed a 25-13 win to sweep the Rockets in three sets and claim the Central Conference Tournament title.
The Red Wolves open up play in the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs on Saturday night, as they will host South Brunswick in Hillsborough in the opening round.