‘Match of the year’: Porter-Gaud, Cardinal Newman stage epic title performance

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Cardinal Newman and Porter-Gaud left no doubt Tuesday who the two best SCISA volleyball teams are and made a case for being two of the two programs in the entire state.

The two private schools staged an epic five-set championship match for the third-straight year. Porter-Gaud outlasted Cardinal Newman 3-2 in front of a raucous crowd at the North Charleston Athletic Center.

It was the second title for the Cyclones in the past three years.

“I think this was the match of the year,” Porter-Gaud coach Megan Parkerson Crouch said. “This rivalry has been a good time, for sure.”

Both teams came into the match playing a rigorous schedule against private and public school opponents. Cardinal Newman notched wins over defending Class 4A champ Hilton Head and Class 5A playoff teams Dorman, Carolina Forest and River Bluff in finishing with a 44-5 mark.

The Cyclones had wins over Hilton Head, Wando and North Myrtle Beach in finishing at 39-7-2 on the season.

“Porter-Gaud is just an amazing team,” Cardinal Newman coach Cynthia Dimapan said. “We played some tough teams and there are a lot of good teams in South Carolina. We had talent and heart to go and play in the tournaments we did and be as successful as we were.”

Both teams had their star power with P-G’s Marianna Singletary and CN’s Ashlyn Watkins. Singletary is an Under Armour All-American selection and committed to Texas. She led the Cyclones with 33 kills in the match.

Watkins is one of the top basketball prospects in the Class of 2022, and South Carolina coach Dawn Staley and North Carolina assistants were there to watch her in action. She will make her college choice in a few weeks.

Watkins has been a key contributor in volleyball on the front line the past three seasons.

Both squads had a strong supporting cast that put on an epic show in the two-hour plus match.

Porter-Gaud won the first and third sets in close fashion, 25-18 and 25-23, while the Cards breezed in winning the second and fourth, 25-8 and 25-11.

Cardinal Newman looked like it had all the momentum after the fourth-set win, but the Cyclones ended that by scoring the first five points in the final set. The Cards chipped away and Watkins’ kill got them within 12-11.

But Singletary hit a shot that went off a pair of diving Cardinal players to win it 15-12.

“When you go into the fifth set and start back at zero, having a strong start is key,” Dimapan said. “We weren’t able to do that in the fifth set and Porter-Gaud was.”

After the match, Dimapan gathered her team and talked to them about the fight they showed throughout the season and in Tuesday’s match.

“The effort we put out I am so proud of it,” she said.

Anna Logan Gillens led Cardinal Newman with 20 kills and Erin Allert had 15. Logan Watson had 20 assists and Mackenzie Widener had 15.

Chloe Alderson led P-G with 18 digs and 27 assists.

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