11/25/05 — Rosewood - Volleyball Players of the Year

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Rosewood - Volleyball Players of the Year

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 25, 2005 1:57 PM

There might not be enough adjectives in Webster’s Dictionary to describe Rosewood High’s phenomenal and historic volleyball season. Words just can’t recount the Eagles’ tremendous teamwork throughout the year — particularly in the playoffs.

One missing object fueled the Eagles’ inner desire.

Bright purple banners recognizing conference championship teams in 13 varsity sports hang on one side of Rosewood’s gymnasium. The school has claimed titles in girls’ basketball, tennis, cross country, soccer and outdoor track.

But not volleyball.

Rosewood - Volleyball Players of the Year

News-Argus/Rudy Coggins

Rosewood High's six seniors pose with their Class 1-A Carolina Conference regular-season and tournament championship trophies, and their runner-up plaque from the N.C. High School Athletic Association eastern regional. The Eagles recorded the school's most-successful season in volleyball with a 25-1 record, including a 10-0 mark in regular-season conference play. The six seniors are, front row, left to right: Clare Narron and Abigail Barrow. Middle row, l to r: Brooke Goff, Stephanie Rhodes and Kelli Gurley. Back row: Kasey Grey.

“Last year we really wanted the banner, but had some problems,” said Kelli Gurley, one of six Rosewood seniors. “(This year) we knew we would have to work together unlike last year if we really wanted it.

“We were set on winning that banner.”

No kidding.

The Eagles’ quest began in the spring and continued with individual workouts during the summer. Coach Jennifer Cochran couldn’t give instruction, so the players worked on the fundamentals — hitting, passing and serving.

They also talked about communication, no matter the situation.

“We knew the way for us to have success was to just have fun and not be too hard on ourselves,” said senior Clare Narron. “We could yell at each other (in matches) and no one would get mad. We weren’t trying to be rude with each other, it was just an understanding of what we were trying to accomplish.”

Narron’s comment echoed the Eagles’ season-long motto: “Thinking determines your attitude, attitude determines your action and action determines your reaction.”

Gurley added “reaction leads to wins.”

No win was more satisfying than a season-ending sweep of archrival Princeton. The Eagles had come up empty in two previous trips down Highway 70, and refused to let the Bulldogs provide the only blemish on their worksheet.

“That was the best game we played,” said a grinning Gurley.

Rosewood fashioned a perfect 20-0 record and seized the program’s first-ever Class 1-A Carolina Conference title. They added the tournament championship and then posted three straight wins — all against No. 1 seeds — in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

The fantastic run translated to a 25-0 record before Heide Trask, a wild-card entry in the 16-team eastern bracket, ended the Eagles’ state championship hopes. Regardless of the outcome, Rosewood’s seniors — Gurley, Narron, Abigail Barrow, Stephanie Rhodes, Kasey Grey and Brooke Goff — are the 2005 News-Argus co-Volleyball Players of the Year.

“The six seniors have really showed a great deal of leadership this season,” said Cochran, whose career record is 93-42 in seven seasons. “Not only have they stayed focused, but they have really been determined all year to achieve several goals. They have set the tone for a volleyball program that they have helped to build for several years.”

The seniors fashioned a 42-4 record overall which included included a 21-3 mark during regular-season conference play. They lost just six games in 26 matches and collected 3-0 wins against more than half of their opponents this season.

Coaches had trouble defending Rosewood, which had a different player to step up each night. Barrow ran the offense well and dished out assists to either Rhodes, Grey, Narron, Gurley; and juniors Kasie Braswell and Courtney Hill.

Gurley shined more on defense and averaged 10 digs per outing during the playoffs.

“It would be difficult (to play us) because you choose the player to shut down and take her out of the game, which is what we do to other opponents,” said Narron, who played outside hitter. “I think that’s why other teams didn’t have a chance because everybody was at the same level (of play).”

Barrow added there was “no star” and the team worked well together.

Once that dream of a conference title no longer remained a fantasy, Barrow admitted the Eagles’ desire increased — along with the pressure to win. Before its opening-round playoff victory against East Carteret, Rosewood was 0-8 all-time in eight postseason appearances.

The Eagles swept East Bladen and then rallied from an opening-set loss to knock off perennial power Pender in the third round. Heide Trask, a wild-card entrant in the 16-team eastern bracket, ended Rosewood’s state title hopes.

“We’ve always wanted to be conference champs, but we never thought of accomplishing what we did this season,” said Barrow. “We definitely felt like we had much more to do (in the playoffs) and that’s what kept us so focused. We always tried to work hard because we know we wanted to end our season perfect.

“It took awhile for that (regional loss) to sink in for me, though. I wanted it more, so I didn’t feel like we did good enough. But, in the end, we did awesome.”

Rosewood became just the third Carolina team to play for a regional championship since 2000. Princeton fell to Perquimans in the 2000 final and Farmville Central, which moved to 2-A this season, lost to Boonville Starmount in the 2004 state-title match.