CARY — When Green Hope and Cardinal Gibbons collided for a Tuesday night non-conference match, both teams received encouraging signs going forward with their young teams.
The visiting Crusaders defeated Green Hope 24-26, 25-14, 25-19, 25-14, but coach Karl Redelfs couldn’t complain.
Knee injuries to Haley Bidgood in the offseason and Appalachian State recruit Caroline Neideffer in the preseason took away two of the Falcons’ (0-1) top returners.
Yet the Falcons took the first game against the Crusaders, winners of seven state championships in the last eight years.
“I’m glad we played a hard team,” Redelfs said. “I felt that they matured a lot (during the match).”
The positive signs for Gibbons (2-0) speak for themselves.
Although this year’s team is much younger from last year’s senior-led squad, it’s proven itself against two of the best programs in Wake County. The Crusaders won 3-0 at Apex in the season opener.
Sophomores Briley Brind’Amour (20 kills) and Emma Longley (14 kills) were dynamic against the Falcons on Tuesday.
“They have a tremendous amount of potential and I think they’re even going to improve so much more as the year goes on,” Gibbons coach Logan Barber said.
Brind’Amour played on last year’s team, but has stepped into the spotlight as the team’s top hitter on a team no longer built on powerful hitters.
“We’re a little more scrappy, more about defense and spreading out our hits more,” Brind’Amour said. “But it seems to work, and we’ll get used to it.”
There’s still a senior presence with this year’s Crusaders, though they’re expanding their roles this year. Seniors Amy Robertson (10 kills), Cheyenne Wood (10 digs, nine kills, seven assists) and Erin Quinn (34 assists) also played a large part.
The seniors and sophomores meshed well in the season’s second game.
“I think the practices have really paid off and we’re really starting to get to know each other on the court and off the court,” Longley said.
Five aces from sophomore Mia Fradenburg helped put away Green Hope early in game three, which Gibbons led 11-0.
It was in that game that Redelfs decided to let his Green Hope team grow.
“Everybody was like ‘Call a timeout!’ and I was like ‘No, no, no, this is what they need.’ They really need to learn to fight back and to not just take things the way they are, not get depressed but figure out ‘Hey, why are we playing this game?,” Redelfs said. “They did a great job of coming back... it’s just building that strong mentality.”
Green Hope sophomore Lexi Chaize handled the setting duties in Neideffer’s place and had 30 assists. Junior Allison Mull moved over to Chaize’s libero spot and had 12 digs while classmate Molly Fields had 13.
Junior Margo Ruffiuex had 12 kills, sophomore Allison O’Connor had 16 blocks and senior Shayla Moss had 10 blocks.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps