PIAA VOLLEYBALL: Cranage, Blue Ridge storm past Palumbo in Class 2A first round

NEW MILFORD — Connor Cranage gave the fans and Blue Ridge community one more memorable performance in the gymnasium he called home for four years.

Elevating his game, the all-state middle hitter slammed 15 kills and had 10 digs to lead the District 2 champion to an overwhelming 3-0 (25-9, 25-15, 25-11) over Academy at Palumbo, the runner-up in District 12, on Tuesday.

Blue Ridge (20-1) advanced to the PIAA Class 2A boys volleyball quarterfinals for the third straight season and will play undefeated Exeter (22-0), the District 3 champion, which beat Masterman, 3-0 (25-9, 25-12, 25-10).

"It was one last go in this gym, a place where I made a ton of memories and accomplished a whole lot," said Cranage, who has 353 kills this season. "I wouldn't have wanted us to play any other way. We wanted to show out in front of our friends and this great community and get one last win for them all."

Despite having more than a week off and time spent at the beach on a senior trip, the Raiders looked sharp in a third straight first-round matchup against Palumbo.

From the jump, Cranage went on the attack. His snap swing produced eight kills in a 25-9 fast start in the first set.

"We knew that we had to play our best volleyball in the state playoffs," Cranage said. "We wanted to peak now. We wanted to play well and continue that energy that we had from the district final (against Holy Redeemer)."

From there, Blue Ridge's crafty setter, Carson Gallagher, started to spread the spike attempts around to all of the hitters. He finished with 28 assists, giving him 613 this season.

Aiden Glasgow gave the Raiders energy from the service line. He scored nine straight points to help Blue Ridge pull away in the second set, which concluded with a 25-15 win.

"We had a week off with our senior trip, so it felt really good to get back in the gym and hit around with the guys," Glasgow said. "We played an awesome game. It felt good to play at a high level."

In the final set, Morgan Thomas took his swings. He had three of his five kills in the game as the Raiders built an 18-5 lead. Gallagher had a six-point serving run, Nick Laude had a couple of kills and Cranage added a kill and a block to highlight the surge.

"It was our last game in this gym, so we really had to bring it," Thomas said. "A lot of people showed up to watch us. It was fun. It is sad that we aren't going to ever play in here again, but we really came out with a lot of energy, and I am very happy about that.

"We played really well."

With a comfortable advantage, the Raiders slammed the door. Cranage scored with a soft hit over the front line and then drove one final kill to the floor. Laude had a smash to finish with seven kills, and Gallagher closed it out with a kill off a set from Cranage.

Blue Ridge ran its record to 42-2 in the last two seasons. In the four years that the seniors, including Cranage, Gallagher, Glasgow, Thomas, Laude and Nate Garrehy, have been on the team, the Raiders are 68-11 and won three straight District 2 Class 2A championships.

Palumbo (11-13) 9 15 11

Blue Ridge (20-1) 25 25 25