09/28/05 — Eagles still perfect

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Eagles still perfect

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 28, 2005 2:06 PM

Still perfect.

Rosewood swept archrival Princeton 25-8, 25-16, 25-23 and completed first-half play unbeaten on the Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball scene Tuesday afternoon. The Eagles extended their school-record win streak to 13 matches, including a 5-0 worksheet against league opposition.

Princeton exited 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.

Second-year Bulldogs coach Trudy Rast devised a simple formula -- pass, set and spike -- for beating the Eagles. But her team struggled on serve receive and surrendered too many transition balls to Rosewood, which attacked relentlessly after a slow start.

Stephanie Daughtry's off-speed hit and Kristen Parker's ace helped stake the Bulldogs to a 3-0 lead. Princeton fans waved blue and gold flags, and shouted "point, bulldogs" after each score.

But that enthusiasm quickly waned once Kasie Braswell stepped to the service line. One of six underclassmen on the Eagles' 12-player roster, Braswell served four aces in a 7-0 run.

Clare Narron added an off-speed hit off Abigail Barrow's assist and Princeton aided the cause with two unforced errors.

"It was really big ... that's what turned it around," Eagle middle hitter Courtney Hill said of the quick offensive surge. "That gave us motivation toward winning the rest of the games.

"We just knew we were playing Princeton and we wanted it more than they did, I think."

Narron provided three consecutive kills, all off Barrow assists, as Rosewood boosted its advantage to 15-5. Narron also added a pair of aces later in the set.

Princeton committed 10 unforced errors, including six attack miscues. The Bulldogs won just two points off their serve.

"We've lost most our first games and come back," said Rast, whose team has played seven five-set matches this season. "Usually, we can come up, but we just waited too late. We were standing around, not moving our feet, not talking and not setting the ball up for kills."

Narron and Hill sparked Rosewood to an early 6-3 lead in the second set. Princeton played steady on defense and Daughtry collected her second kill with the Bulldogs down 9-7.

The Eagles committed a couple of unforced errors and Daughtry's ace knotted the set at 12-12. But Rosewood refocused after the short mental letdown and battled Princeton sideout for sideout.

Kelli Gurley's cross-court kill started a set-clinching 9-1 run. Kasey Grey contributed three kills and one block during that stretch, and finished the set with five kills.

"Once we get the momentum, I think everything falls like it should be," said Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran.

The third set featured five ties and five lead changes. Princeton tightened its defense and forced Eagle hitters to hit either around the block or down the line.

Kortnie Yutzy (eight digs) denied the cross-court kill and Daughtry (seven digs) kept balls alive near the net. Middle hitters/blockers Sarah Gibbs and Cynthia Peedin touched several balls to prevent Rosewood from putting together any runs.

The Eagles, also a middle-hitting team, employed the same strategy and received solid defensive play from Gurley, Stephanie Rhodes and Kasie Braswell. Each player finished the straight-set sweep with five digs.

"The third game we really played well," said Rast. "We just waited too long to come alive."

Yutzy served two aces as Princeton turned a 7-6 deficit into a 9-7 lead. Rosewood answered with a 6-4 run that included two Narron aces and Hill's kill off another Barrow assist.

Peedin's block of a Barrow tip closed the gap to 13-12. However, Princeton would get no closer until the Eagles failed to convert consecutive set points at 24-22 and 24-23.

Peedin slammed a short serve return to Rosewood's middle court to make it 24-23. Hill finished off the Bulldogs with her seventh kill.

"Late in the last game we were aggressive, we didn't lay back ... send free balls over the net," said Cochran. "We just didn't capitalize on a couple of hits on the outside. But I just knew they were going to fall."

Notes: The Eagles have won 39 of 40 sets. ... Barrow delivered a match-high 19 assists. ... Rosewood served 15 aces as a team. ... The Bulldogs ended up with 37 digs as a team. ... Princeton committed 30 unforced errors.