RALEIGH — When Cardinal Gibbons senior Amy Robertson hit a ball out in the third game of Saturday’s fourth round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 3A volleyball playoffs, she grimaced.
Coach Logan Barber wanted her to move on.
He clapped and called out “Next point!” Robertson then accounted for four kills in the game’s next six points.
Four-time defending state champions are allowed to look ahead. But Gibbons, which advanced with a 25-14, 25-9, 25-10 win against visiting Big Eight Conference foe Cedar Ridge, isn’t looking past opponents, just to the next ball.
This is the time of year the Crusaders (26-0), No. 1 the The News & Observer rankings, have been waiting for.
“They are definitely peaking at a good time. And they’re doing a good job of understanding the big-game atmosphere,” Barber said. “They’re still taking everything very focused, very serious about what their goal is – which is to win the state championship. They’re doing a good job of not overlooking any steps in that process.”
Senior Cheyenne Wood did her usual role, which is a mix of everything – setting up teammates, putting up a block, playing solid back line defense and getting in a few kills.
“My role is just to make sure I keep things in system and control the ball,” Wood said. “To organize the chaos.”
Sophomore Briley Brind’Amour had 14 kills and Robertson had 12. Senior Erin Quinn had seven.
For Cedar Ridge (23-8), which tied for second in the Big Eight with Chapel Hill – a coin flip sent Chapel Hill to the other half of the bracket as a No. 3 seed – it exited the court to tune of it fans chanting “Thank you Red Wolves!”
It was the second year in a row – and third time in the last four years – that Cedar Ridge had made it to the fourth round of the playoffs. The previous two times were in the 2A classification.
“We’re kind of outside (the Triangle) so we’re really not in the same mold as a lot of these (Triangle-area) schools,” Red Wolves coach Charlie Oakley said. “We are a lot more homegrown than some of the schools in the Raleigh and Durham and Chapel Hill area, so it kind of sets up apart in that regard.”
The Red Wolves will lose five seniors from this year’s team, including middle blocker Bailey Freeman, who led the team with five kills.
“That’s kind of the fun part about coaching high school is every year you get a new group of seniors and this one worked extremely well. I’m glad they transitioned to 3A well,” Oakley said.
Blake: 919-460-2606; Twitter: @JMBpreps