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Raiders end season in semi-finals

Pungo Christian Academy Raiders’ bid for a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state title ended with a 3-0 semifinal loss to Lee Christian School in Sanford earlier this week.The Raiders lost for the first time this fall, 25-17, 25-16 and 25-15 to end the season 13-1. PCA earned the second seed in the East bracket of the NCISAA 1A tournament, while the Falcons were the top seed in the West.Pungo had dropped only one set all season, and the first two rounds of post-season play were no different as they rolled over Community Christian of Wilson and The Albemarle School of Elizabeth City in six straight sets at home. However, the Falcons (15-1) started strong on their home court, and the Raiders could never turn momentum in their favor. “Lee Christian is a very solid, experienced team that looked very comfortable at home and was ready to play when they came out for warmups,” PCA coach Melanie Eddleman said. “They found the holes in ourcoverage and scored a lot of points that way. We had a lot of silly errors and double hits on our returns and that really hurt.”Lee Christian will travel to Henderson Saturday to meet the East’s top seed, Kerr-Vance Academy (12-1) for the state title. This marks KVA’s fourth-straight title game appearance. The Spartans have won back-to-back championships and are 94-6 in the last four years.“That is going to be a great match,” Eddleman said. “We were supposed to play Kerr-Vance this year before COVID forced us into a conference-only schedule. I know KVA is at home, but I also know Lee Christian is very strong.”It was the third-straight season that seniors Riley Cutler, Lauren Ricks and Emma Williams had won two matches in the tournament, before losing the third and this year marked the Raiders first trip to the Final Four.“Those three have been at PCA since they started school, so it was hard for them to realize that their playing days were over,” Eddleman said. “They were upset and hurt after it was over, but I told them I was very proud of them and of what they accomplished. I also told everyone to walk out of the gym with their head up.”Cutler and Williams were named to the Tar Heel Independent All-Conference team along with junior Haley Elliot and league player of the year, sophomore Reagan Stoop. Williams led PCA with 100 assists as a setter. Stoop (134) and Elliot (115) were tops in points off serves. Stoop also led the Raiders with 141 kills. The Raiders are 35-3 under Eddleman the past two seasons and are looking to stay atop the TIC and return to the state tournament.