09/23/05 — Rosewood claims sole possession of Carolina volleyball lead

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Rosewood claims sole possession of Carolina volleyball lead

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 23, 2005 1:56 PM

CALYPSO -- The top perch on the Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball scene became a lonesome spot for Rosewood High on Thursday afternoon. But the unbeaten Eagles didn't mind forcing their roommate -- North Duplin -- to vacate its share of the league lead.

Rosewood needed just 65 minutes to deal the Rebels a 25-13, 25-18, 25-14 loss and bounce them from the conference's unbeaten ranks. The Eagles extended their school-record winning streak to 12 matches and carry a 4-0 Carolina Conference worksheet into next Tuesday's home match with archrival Princeton.

North Duplin (6-2, 3-1) had six of seven matches, including all three in Carolina Conference play, reach the five-set maximum before getting swept by Rosewood. The Rebels needed five sets to beat North Johnston on Wednesday and looked flat from start to finish against the Eagles.

They never found a consistent offensive rhythm, particularly with senior middle hitter Sierra Ward. Rosewood middle blockers/hitters Kasie Grey and Courtney Hill tracked Ward throughout the match, and got several touches on middle-kill attempts. Ward finished with a season-low seven kills with just two coming in the final set.

"We kept Sierra out of the match and that was the big difference in the game," said Eagles coach Jennifer Cochran. "(Kasie's) net play was big for us and she blocked a couple of balls. She's got good height at the net and took care of it for us."

Overall, North Duplin managed just 10 kills compared to 27 unforced errors on kill attempts, serve attempts, serve receive and passing combined.

"We simply beat ourselves," said Rebels coach Heather Best. "Rosewood is a good team, but we never showed up mentally and physically to play to our potential tonight."

The Eagles' strengths have been their serving and defense, but they turned in a balanced offensive effort against the Rebels. Grey, who recorded three blocks, and Hill combined for 14 kills. Senior setter Abigail Barrow dished out a match-high 16 assists.

Outside hitters Clare Narron and Kasey Braswell sparked Rosewood in the opening set. The tandem combined for five kills and stretched North Duplin's defense, which had clogged the middle to prevent keep Grey and Hill from dominating with off-speed hits.

The teams combined for three lead changes and three ties before Rosewood seized control at 5-5. Narron ripped a kill off Ward's block and the Rebels' aided the Eagles' run with three consecutive unforced errors.

North Duplin pulled within 10-8, but Narron and Barrow combined for back-to-back kills to ignite a set-ending 14-5 run.

"I thought Kasey B and Clare did a great job on the outside," said Cochran. "Our setter (Barrow) worked hard out there, too. Stephanie (Rhodes) had some good hits at the net, too."

Ward's ineffectiveness forced the Rebels to find other sources offensively. But inconsistent passing surfaced again in the second set, which led to numerous transition balls -- easy attack chances for Rosewood.

Hill's kill and Barrow's back-to-back aces turned a 2-2 tie into a 6-2 lead in the second set. The teams traded sideouts and short runs with the Rebels closing within 12-10.

However, Rosewood successfully converted seven of its next eight kill attempts and grabbed a commanding 23-13 lead. North Duplin never recovered.

Grey provided three keys and a block as Rosewood claimed a 9-1 advantage in the third set. The Rebels didn't win an offensive point until Ward's cross-court kill to the back corner off Julie Ivey's assist. That made it 14-5.

Rosewood dominated play from that point and stayed on pace to earn the school's first-ever, regular-season championship. Cochran admitted there are plenty of matches left to play with no "freebies" on the schedule, but the players remain focused on their goal.

They want athletics director Daniel Barrow to create space for another bright purple banner recognizing their achievement along with the other conference champions in Rosewood's illustrious history.

"We had a couple of communication breakdowns, but we focused tonight," said Cochran. "All around it was a good team effort. We're very scrappy. Our defense and serving have been our strong points, but I think we're getting our offense there.

"Each game is going to be tough. We just have to take one game at a time, I guess."