10/19/04 — Kenan drops Wallace-RH from tourney

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Kenan drops Wallace-RH from tourney

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 19, 2004 1:57 PM

WARSAW -- One life left.

James Kenan labored through the final two sets and eliminated county rival Wallace-Rose Hill from the Class 1-A Super Six Conference volleyball playoffs Monday evening. The fourth-seeded Tigers erased a three-point deficit in the fourth and prevailed 25-21, 25-23, 19-25, 25-20 at Harmon Gymnasium.

The victory kept James Kenan's slim postseason hopes alive heading into today's semfinal-round match at 7 p.m. against top-seeded Union. A loss ends the Tigers' streak of three consecutive appearances in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

Lakewood, the reigning Super Six champion, takes on third-seeded Midway in today's first semifinal at 5 p.m. The winners meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

James Kenan's strength this season has been its ability to get ahead of opponents and maintain the momentum. The key has been the starting rotation's communication and scrappiness for every loose ball, which certainly factored into the match's final outcome.

Very few balls hit the floor as the Tigers transition from defense to offense well -- which allowed them to keep a steady offensive flow. Alisha Taber emerged the top hitter from the outside, collecting five of her team- and match-high 10 kills in the first two sets. Once she got into a groove, her teammates became more aggressive in the attacking game.

"It seems like the team, together, think they have to have one or two in it before they come around and say 'it's okay to play today," James Kenan coach Regina Myers said. "They just need to learn to do it together."

But the Tigers (10-9) experienced trouble holding onto sizable leads in each set. The Bulldogs whittled an eight-point, first-set deficit to two before an overlapping call ended the set. James Kenan cruised to a 10-point lead in the second set until Wallace-Rose Hill rallied again.

Candace Cavenaugh ignited a 10-4 run with a kill to the back corner. Lindley Barrow blocked Taber and Cavenaugh came back with a kill moments later to keep the spurt going.

Caitlin Dickerson uncorked back-to-back kills, her only two of the match, to close the gap to 24-21. Sarah Beth Moore served a pair of aces, making it 24-23. Caroline Moore's kill off Taylor Lanier's assist stopped the rally and gave the Tigers the second set.

The teams battled through early ties before James Kenan stormed ahead 12-7 in the third set. Wallace-Rose Hill stayed within the framework of its offense and forged ahead 13-12 on five aces from Moore, who finished with 10 on the afternoon.

The match was tied at 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15 until two ball-handling errors put the Tigers in a two-point hole. Barrow didn't allow James Kenan to recover as she recorded a block and a kill for a 21-17 lead. The Bulldogs extended their lead and eventually won 25-19.

"Anytime you ever travel, it takes you a little while to get your head on straight," Bulldogs coach Stephanie Crews said. "For some reason, our team likes to start moving about the third game ... start doing what they're supposed to do.

"Our momentum always changes somewhere around the end of the second game. We have a lot of hustle and determination, and we try to finish it out."

Wallace-Rose Hill couldn't complete the task this time, despite a valiant effort in the fourth set. The Bulldogs (3-18) erased a two-point deficit and moved in front 18-15 behind the play of Gloria Guthrie (two aces) and Barrow's blocking.

However, James Kenan benefited from three ball-handling mistakes before Barrow's sixth block gave the visitors their final lead at 19-18. The Tigers continued to capitalize on Wallace-Rose Hill mistakes and closed out the set with a 7-1 run.

"The third game, I think we kind of knew we had it (the win) and you can't do that," said Lanier, who finished with eight assists and eight digs. "We quit talking at the end. We have to play hard the whole time if we want to win.

"We just started playing and decided we weren't up to staying out here for another game. We wanted it. It was in our hearts to win and we dug it out."

The Tigers picked up 26 kills as a team and had 48 digs on defense, including a team-leading 11 from Caroline Moore. Taber added eight digs, while Lauren Lewis provided eight digs, three aces and three assists. Crystal Evans contributed five kills, eight aces and seven digs.

Union swept James Kenan during the regular season.