Riverside rides 26th straight win into state 4-A quarferfinals

Oct. 24, 2013 @ 10:37 PM

Riverside volleyball coach Mike Hodge had a lot of questions about his team at the beginning of the season and the Pirates continue finding ways to answer them.

PAC-6 4-A champion Riverside won its 26th straight match on Thursday in a grueling five-set contest at home against Cap Eight 4-A Conference champion Broughton (18-3) to reach the quarterfinals of the state 4-A playoffs.

It is the longest winning streak for the Pirates since 2004 when they won 24 in a row, according to Hodge.

In fact, the Pirates haven’t lost since behind shut out in their season opener at Chapel Hill 3-0 on Aug. 23 in the Chapel Hill Invitational tournament. Chapel Hill has gone on to advance to the state 3-A quarterfinals.

Other teams that advanced from the area Thursday and will play in Saturday’s state quarterfinals in the 1-A, 2-A and 3-A classifications are Voyager Academy (1-A), South Granville (2-A) and Cedar Ridge (3-A). Eliminated on Thursday were Carrboro (2-A) and Roxboro Community School (1-A).

Riverside (26-1) got off to a quick start Thursday by taking the first two sets 25-19 and 25-17. But Broughton rallied to take the next two 25-19 and 25-21, which forced the decisive fifth set.

In the final race to 15 points, the Pirates regained their edge thanks to the hitting of senior Zariya Thomas and sophomore Rachel Kallianos and won 15-11 to secure the victory. Riverside next will play Raleigh Wakefield (22-2), the No. 2 seed from the Cap Eight behind Broughton, on Saturday.

“If you had told me at the beginning of the season we would make it to the fourth round of the playoffs, I would have been surprised,” Hodge said. “We had so many questions at the beginning of the season and after losing to Chapel Hill to start, this team has come a long way.”

Riverside put that early loss quickly in the rearview mirror and has reeled off more wins in a row than it has in nine seasons. Hodge said he is not worried at all about his players thinking too much about the winning streak.

“The pieces have fallen into place and the team is very united,” Hodge said. “The players are keeping stuff in the right place.”

The only concern Hodge has going into the next match is playing back-to-back five-set matches.

“I don’t like five-set matches,” Hodge said. “We had a good start but we let (Broughton) back in. Credit to them for not quitting. They were relentless the whole time. It was very taxing because you want to try to win in three. That way you save your legs and don’t physically get beat up.”

Thomas led the way with 22 kills, including the winners in the second and fifth sets. She also got 13 digs. Yakima Clifton added 17 kills and five blocks, most coming from the middle.

“It’s a great feeling to get this win,” Thomas said. “It was a little rough in the middle but we pulled it together. It was amazing and I wanted that last point so bad for the team.”

Kallianos had 15 kills and 15 digs, including a stretch of three straight late in the deciding fifth set.

“We really wanted this win and we’re focused on the next round,” Kallianos said. “I was ready for the ball to come over and I was going to do anything to make sure it didn’t hit the floor.”

Senior setter Casey Speer had 45 assists and libero Victoria Pearce added 32 digs.

NOTES — Hodge said Pirates' stars Mone Jones (thumb) and Clifton (shin splints) are nicked up but should be good to go on Saturday night ... The state semifinal round will be played on Tuesday.


Voyager sails to 1-A win

DURHAM — North Central 1-A Athletic Conference co-champion Voyager Academy squeaked past NCAC No. 3 seed Roxboro Community School 3-2 — 26-24, 20-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-11 — Thursday night here behind a monstrous 33 kills and 20 digs by Sydney Holland.

Voyager, the No. 2 seed from the NCAC, also got 15 kills, 22 digs and an ace from Megan Harris and 19 digs from Laura Downing and advances to the state 1-A quarterfinals against NCAC co-champion Raleigh Charter Saturday.

Just how close were the NCAC co-champions this season? Both finished 11-1 in conference play, splitting against each other — each winning at home. Overall, they’re both 19-3.

Voyager lost a costly coin flip on the last day of the regular season, giving Raleigh Charter the No. 1 seed from the NCAC and the resultant home court edge Saturday.

Head to head, Charter won 25-20, 25-20, 25-22 on Sept. 4. Voyager returned the favor Sept. 26 with a 3-1 win, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23.

Saturday’s 6 p.m. quarterfinal will be played at Cary Academy on North Harrison Avenue, Cary, just off I-40 East, because Charter does not have a home court suitable for tournament play.

“These girls (Voyager) have worked incredibly hard this season and deserve every ounce of credit for their resilience, work ethic and commitment to each other,” Voyager coach Chelsea Skoff said. “We are so excited to meet back up with such a great conference opponent. Raleigh Charter is a solid team and I can’t think of a better way to showcase all the talent in our conference than with a playoff battle against one of the best teams in the state.”


Chapel Hill advances

HAMPSTEAD — Chapel Hill advanced to the state 3-A quarterfinals Thursday with a 3-0 win at Topsail, 25-13, 25-14, 26-24.

Chapel Hill (21-8), the No. 3 seed from the Big Eight 3-A Conference, will travel to Wilson Fike Saturday at 7 p.m. for its quarterfinal showdown with the champion on the Big East 3-A Conference, 21-4.

On Thursday, Perry Ramsey starred with 24 points on 21 kills, two blocks and an ace while contributing a team-high 13 digs for the Tigers. Annie Linker had 38 assists and nine digs, many of those assists to Ramsey, Catherine Romaine (12 kills, a block and six digs) and Katharine Esterley (14 kills and a block).


South Granville moves on

ELIZABETH CITY — Northern Carolina 2-A Conference champion South Granville (24-5) cruised past Northeastern Coastal 2-A champion Northeastern 3-0 on the road Thursday night to advance to the state 2-A quarterfinals.

South Granville will host Northern Carolina runner-up Southern Vance (19-5) in Saturday’s quarterfinals. South Granville has defeated Southern Vance by identical 3-0 scores in three meetings this season, including the finals of the Northern Carolina tournament.

In the latest meeting of the two teams on Oct. 16, South Granville won 25-19, 29-27, 26-24. On Sept. 24, the Vikings won 25-12, 25-16, 25-22 and on Aug. 29, South Granville prevailed 25-15, 25-12, 27-25.


Gibbons looms for Cedar Ridge

ERWIN — Cedar Ridge, the No. 2 seed from the Big Eight 3-A Conference advanced to the state 3-A quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Two Rivers 3-A champion Triton 26-24, 25-22, 25-21.

The victory sets up a meeting with undefeated Big Eight champion and four-time reigning state 3-A champion Cardinal Gibbons (25-0) in Raleigh Saturday.

Gibbons, which is ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 40 nationally by MaxPreps.com, has not lost a set to Cedar Ridge in two meetings this year, winning 25-20, 25-14, 25-19 on Oct. 10 and 25-12, 25-5, 25-7 on Sept. 17.

“We are excited to be in the fourth round and it speaks highly of our conference that three of the remaining four seeds in the Eastern side of the bracket are from the (Big Eight),” Cedar Rodge coach Charlie Oakley said. “We knew when the bracket came out we would have to go through Cardinal Gibbons and we welcome the opportunity to play them again. Saturday will be fun.”


Carrboro falls on road

TRINITY — Mid-State 2-A Conference champion Carrboro (19-7) lost to PAC-6 2-A champion Wheatmore (25-1) here Friday in a tiebreaker 3-2 and was eliminated in the third round of the state 2-A playoffs.