Arendell Parrott wins first volleyball title with five-set thriller over Caldwell Academy
Arendell Parrott capped off an undefeated season with the school’s first volleyball championship with a five-set win over Caldwell Academy Saturday. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News
In this case, the sequel was better than the original.
For the second straight season, Arendell Parrott was in the NCISAA championship game and mired in a five-set war. This time around, the Patriots came out victorious, defeating Caldwell Academy 25-23, 17-25, 27-25, 17-25, 15-4 Saturday to claim the school’s first volleyball title.
APA (21-0) lost a five-set heartbreaker last season to Asheville Christian in the title game, but recovered against Caldwell Academy (23-6) this year in another grueling contest. The Eagles and Patriots played a five-set thriller in Greensboro on Aug. 13.
“There’s quite a few ‘un’s’ to describe this one,” Patriots coach David Barnes said. “Unexpected, unbelievable, undefeated and unprecedented. Unexpected because this was a rebuilding year — who expected this after losing two All-State players (in Scarlet Combs and Hannah Scott Avery)? Unbelievable because nobody thought they’d have to go through APA to win the title. People were saying Caldwell, Asheville or Coastal (Christian), teams with a lot of returning players. Unprecedented, because this has never been done before and undefeated speaks for itself.
“Every year has been a step up — my first year we made the quarterfinals, next year the semifinals. We made the finals last year and this time, we were able to win it. The tradition here, Susana Sualevai, Scarlet Combs, Hannah Scott Avery — they paved the path for this to happen.”
The first set was heavily contested with 19 ties and 10 lead changes. Neither team had an advantage higher than two when a Brinkley Smith service ace put Caldwell Academy ahead 12-10. APA came back to take a 20-18 lead, but Caldwell seemed to have the advantage again after a missed serve put the Eagles ahead 23-22. Alli Grant Avery’s kill on the next point swung momentum back and the Patriots picked up the next two points.
Avery and Virginia Edmondson teamed up for a block to start the second set, but Caldwell Academy responded with a 6-0 run and didn’t look back. The Patriots got within 8-5 on a Mackenzie Pope kill, but eight missed serves in the set proved detrimental as the Eagles wrapped it up with a Hannah Hulsman service ace to tie the game at 1. Caldwell Christian kept the pressure on early in the third set, going up 6-2 after Campbell Smith’s ace and seemingly in control.
The Patriots fought back, taking the lead and stretching it to 17-14. Caldwell Christian would respond with six unanswered and eventually go up 22-18, but Avery had two kills in a 6-0 run to give APA a set point. The Eagles scored the next three to take set point themselves, but a missed serve and an Avery kill set up the Patriots to finish and push Caldwell Academy to the brink.
Parrott jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth set buoyed by a pair of Avery kills, but Caldwell scored the next four and later went on a 7-0 run highlighted by two Hulsman kills and three aces from Christina Phillips. The Patriots got within 21-17, but the Eagles scored the next four to set up the final set.
Facing a similar situation as last year, Pope said the team wasn’t going to wilt.
“We tried not to let moments where we got down on ourselves keep us from coming back,” Pope said.
The resolve was shown as the Patriots started the fifth set up 4-1, aided by two Avery kills and a Gisell Cervantes service ace. Caldwell Academy got within 6-4, but APA closed the game out on a 9-0 run, including a pair of Edmondson kills and Gabby Carriere service aces.
It was fitting the senior’s aces would come on the game’s last two points, securing the title and setting off a wild celebration with the fans.
“It’s so special (and) I’m going to remember it forever,” Carriere said.
Grant said the team had a stronger mindset, especially after a crushing blow in 2017.
“We tried to keep our composure (and) we played as a team,” Avery said. “We’re the 1.3 percent in the state that won a state championship and (I’m so happy) we got it.”
Photos by Melissa Lambert / Special to Neuse News