Orange County

Can both win titles? Carrboro and Chapel Hill vie for state volleyball crowns.

Chapel Hill High School coach Ross Fields (center) has his team back in the 3-A state volleyball championship match. The Tigers will play North Iredell at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday (5 p.m.).
Chapel Hill High School coach Ross Fields (center) has his team back in the 3-A state volleyball championship match. The Tigers will play North Iredell at N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum on Saturday (5 p.m.).

Carrboro and Chapel Hill experienced vastly different emotions coming out of the state high school volleyball championship matches last season.

Carrboro secured its first state championship in the sport, while Chapel Hill left N.C. State’s Reynolds Coliseum highly disappointed.

Now both teams are heading back to Reynolds again.

Carrboro will be taking on West Iredell in the 2-A championship (2:30 p.m.), while Chapel Hill will face North Iredell for the 3-A title (5 p.m.).

Carrboro (30-0) is riding a 60-match winning streak. The Jaguars’ last loss ended their 2015 season when they fell to South Granville in the 2-A East Region championship — one match short of the state finals. South Granville went on to win the 2-A title, which set the stage for Carrboro’s current streak.

Carrboro coach Steve Scanga said his team got through last season with one mission, which was to play 30 matches. The Jaguars accomplished that and won their 30th match for the championship. This season Scanga has used a similar approach, encouraging his players to get to 31. They have.

“Playing in a championship match brings a pressure of its own,” Scanga said. “Last season, since we hadn’t been there, it was important for the team to know what it was like to play in a title game. They won, which was great, but the journey getting there was even better.

“This year, it’s been the same. We have some new faces in the lineup and our veteran players have helped them get to this point again.”

Carrboro is led by UNC recruit Destiny Cox, who is an extremely talented outside hitter, and setter Sarah Montross, daughter of UNC standout Eric Montross. Both will be heading to UNC next year but Sarah will be enjoying life as a regular student and playing club volleyball instead of joining Cox on the Tar Heels’ varsity.

Chapel Hill (25-6) has won its last nine matches since losing a nonconference match to 4-A Raleigh Leesville Road.

Getting back to the championship match was a goal the Tigers have fought for all season, said Chapel Hill coach Ross Fields. He said his team learned a lot from their title match appearance last season and that has driven them to get back to Raleigh.

In the regular season, Chapel Hill lost matches to three teams playing for state titles on Saturday.

They lost to 1-A Roxboro Community, also a state finalist last season, 3-1 in August. Then they suffered a 3-1 loss to defending 4-A champion Green Hope.

Two of their losses came against crosstown rival Carrboro. But the upshot coming out of second loss against the Jaguars was forcing the match to five sets. Chapel Hill was the only team to win any sets against the Jaguars, whose other 29 wins came quickly in three-set sweeps.

“We’ve played some tough matches this season and it was designed to get us back there (to Raleigh),” Fields said. “There were some ups and downs but we really hit our stride coming down the stretch and into the playoffs.”

Chapel Hill survived its fourth-round match on the road, a five-set nail-biter that saw the Tigers stave off seven match points against Pitt County Conley before rallying to win. They then had to go on the road again to face Person and the right to advance to the 3-A title match.

The Tigers still are a relatively young team with only two seniors on the roster – Nadiya Farrington and Bailey Rose. Sophomore Kaya Merkler leads the Tigers with 445 kills, which is a little more than a third of the team total (1149). Sophomore Samantha Breshi stepped into the setter position and has 844 on the season. Farrington is fourth on the team with 125 kills, while Rose is second on the team with 30 blocks.

Joe Johnson: 919-419-6678, @JEJ_HSNews