10/08/04 — Rosewood knocks off North Johnson, captures second place in Carolina race

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Rosewood knocks off North Johnson, captures second place in Carolina race

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on October 8, 2004 1:56 PM

There have been upsets and surprises across the board during the 2004 Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball campaign.

Rosewood's win over North Johnston at home on Thursday wasn't necessarily staggering, but the fact the Eagles swept the Panthers with relative ease in three sets -- 25-17, 25-18, 25-20 -- certainly was.

The win on senior night gave Rosewood (14-4, 7-3 Carolina) sole possession of second place in the conference heading into the final week of the regular season. The Eagles avenged an early-season, four-set loss to the Panthers.

North Johnston (13-6 overall) dropped to 6-4 in conference play.

"I'm surprised, but I'm real pleased with that performance," Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran said. "The juniors and seniors wanted it for the seniors. They all have a common goal."

Through all three sets, Rosewood limited its mistakes on serve and defensively and hardly ever allowed the Panthers to make a big run. In the third and decisive set, the Eagles faced and overcame their most formidable challenge.

The Eagles trailed early at 3-0, then again at 10-6 after a kill by North Johnston's Candace Evans -- prompting Cochran to call a timeout.

"I told them to pretend the score is tied. They said, 'OK,' and then I don't think we missed a serve," Cochran said. "That group we had out there really worked for us."

After a service error by the Panthers, Rosewood's Abigail Barrow took serve and closed the gap to 10-9. The middle and late stages of the third went back-and-forth until the Eagles tied the game at 20-20 and sent Katy Morris to the service line.

Appropriately, two seniors helped Rosewood put the set and game away. Morris served out the rest of the third as fellow upperclassman Morgan Wheeler posted two kills and a block during the run to seal the set and game at 25-20.

Wheeler and Morris, along with Hannah Aycock and Jessica Hill, played in their final regular season home game at Rosewood.

The first set saw tight play early before Rosewood took control with solid all-around play, benefitting from a handful of unforced miscues by the Panthers.

With Rosewood's Kelli Gurley on serve, the Eagles went up 14-8 after a North Johnston kill attempt proved too deep. Rosewood never led by less than three the rest of the first game, eventually claiming the set 25-17 on a kill by Hill, who finished with seven kills and seven blocks.

Wheeler, who had a team-high 11 kills, was particularly strong in the second set -- posting seven kills aided by solid passing from her teammates.

"We wanted to get the ball to Jessica (Hill) more, but it seemed like her and Katy (Morris) were providing the passes to Morgan (Wheeler)," Cochran said. "We usually expect Jessica to control the game, but we didn't really have the passes when she was at the net.

"Other players stepped up and put the ball away for us. We kept our hits and our passes in."

Wheeler pushed her team up 19-10 before the Panthers eventually trimmed the gap to 20-17. Rosewood regained composure, winning five of the next six points to take a 2-0 lead.

Abigail Barrow added two key aces late in the second.

To close out the regular season, Rosewood faces two road challenges -- North Duplin on Tuesday and rival Princeton on Thursday.

North Johnston closes with a pair of home games against Ayden-Grifton and Spring Creek.

"It was bad. We stunk it up," North Johnston coach Nicole Davis said. "I was expecting my team to do something today, but we didn't even show up. There are chances for us to still make the playoffs. Things can happen and I'm not going to give up hope on that.

"We've beaten all the teams in the conference, including Farmville Central."

The conference tournament begins Oct. 19. The top two teams from the conference qualify for the N.C. High School Athletic Association state playoffs.