THEN THERE WERE NONE
If there was a team that knew how to knock off Cardinal Gibbons in volleyball, it was Chapel Hill. But on Tuesday night in the 3-A East Regional championship, the Tigers didn’t quite have enough to overcome Gibbons, falling in a 3-0 sweep.
Chapel Hill wasn’t the only area team to fall in the state semifinals. In Trinity, last year’s 2-A state runner-up, South Granville (25-6), fell in straight sets to Wheatmore (27-1) 3-0.
No area teams will play in Saturday’s state volleyball championships at N.C. State.
Chapel Hill coach Sherry Norris said she knew it was going to take an almost perfect effort by her team to defeat Gibbons, a private school which is seeking its fifth straight state title and its eighth in nine seasons since joining the NCHSAA.
“Cardinal Gibbons was just better,” Norris said. “They were more consistent and they hit the ball. We had to make no errors. We had serving errors. Our passes weren’t getting to our setters. We couldn’t get our outside hitters going.”
Chapel Hill, which was one of only three teams to win a set against the Crusaders this season, was the last team to beat Gibbons. The Tigers won the 2012 regular-season finale at Gibbons. But since then, the state’s overall No. 2-ranked Crusaders (27-0) have won 34 straight matches, including all three against Chapel Hill this season and the post-season tiebreaking seeding match at Gibbons in the spring.
Chapel Hill (22-9) was in a rebuilding mode, according to Norris. And to make it to the regional finals was quite an accomplishment for her squad. It was the first time in 10 years that Chapel Hill went this far in the playoffs, she said.
“Our girls did a remarkable job,” Norris said.
But losing to Gibbons in the state playoffs has been a common occurrence. Gibbons has ended Chapel Hill’s season five straight times, although the previous four came in the state quarterfinal round.
Fourth-year Gibbons coach Logan Barber praised Chapel Hill’s effort and said it took a complete effort by his team to earn the win.
“Our game plan worked well from the beginning and we won the points that mattered,” Barber said. “This group, as opposed to the last couple where we had one or two star players, makes it a real team effort.”
After Gibbons opened the match with a quick 5-1 lead in the first set, Chapel Hill fought back to tie at 5-5. Then trailing 7-6, Chapel Hill surrendered the next six points to Gibbons and never recovered. The Crusaders eventually built a 19-7 led before finishing off the first set 25-17 on a Briley Brind’Amour kill.
Brind’Amour, daughter of former Carolina Hurricanes captain Rod Brind’Amour, played a key role in Gibbons’ quick starts in the second and third sets, also. She finished with 14 kills and four blocks to lead the Crusaders on offense.
The Tigers fell behind 9-2 early in the second set before losing it 25-10.
Gibbons again took advantage of another strong start to build a 7-3 lead in the third set.
But the Tigers didn’t give up.
Chapel Hill fought back to within a point five times, including down 14-13. But the closest the Tigers got the rest of way was down two points at 17-15. Gibbons finished the match on an 8-2 run to take it 25-17 as Emma Longley’s spike deflected off a Chapel Hill player for the final point.
Perry Ramsey led Chapel Hill with eight kills, while Catherine Romaine got four and Katharine Esterley finished with three. They each registered two solo blocks.
Annie Linker had nine assists and an ace for the Tigers. And Madison Gunning and Katie Huge each got seven digs.