Carolina 1-A Queens: Eagles take tournament title
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 21, 2005 2:07 PM
Two for two.
Seven days after claiming its first-ever Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball title, Rosewood added another crown -- the tournament title -- to its impressive 2005 resume on Thursday evening. Middle hitter Courtney Hill led three Eagles in double figures with 16 kills in a 25-10, 25-22, 25-22 victory over sixth-seeded Spring Creek.
Rosewood remained perfect in 22 outings and earned its second sweep of the upstart Gators this season. The victory assured Princeton of retaining the league's No. 2 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which start next week.
Spring Creek slipped to 12-8 overall, but remains eligible for one of two wild cards available in the 16-team eastern bracket. The Gators, who upset Princeton on Wednesday, will learn of their fate later today or sometime this weekend when the NCHSAA compiles overall records from 15 conferences statewide and officially releases the pairings.
The Eagles entertain the Coastal Plains champion next Tuesday at 7 p.m. Princeton (8-8) could draw an opening-round match against Pender, which reached the 2-A state title match in 2004. If the Gators receive the wild card, they could travel to either the Albemarle Conference champion or that league's runner-up.
Spring Creek players boldly predicted a title-game meeting with Rosewood, which swept 10 of 12 league opponents in regular-season and tournament play.
"That fired up my girls," said Eagles coach Jennifer Cochran, who collected her 90th career win in seven seasons. "We were really focused the entire match and that was a big part of the match. Everything was fundamentally-based and they had a good time.
"This was a huge difference from yesterday's game (with North Johnston)."
Sophomore Brittani Billups provided an early spark for Spring Creek with two kills off Margo Sauter assists and a solo block. The Eagles adjusted to the single-blocking scheme and broke open game one with a 6-1 run.
Outside hitter Clare Narron and middle hitter Courtney Hill combined for four kills during that stretch. Rosewood generated consistent attacks behind strong defensive play and setter Abigail Barrow. The senior dished out a season-high 32 assists, including 11 in the opening game.
"We hit their holes really good today," said a grinning and misty-eyed Cochran. "When you spread the ball around, it's kind of hard to know where the ball is coming from. I think Abigail had the best game of her career tonight.
"Without her, we really wouldn't have been able to get the kills."
The Gators switched to a double block once Hill got untracked. The change didn't bother the Eagles, who received instruction from Cochran to either hit through or use the blocker's hands for off-speed hits inside the 3-meter line.
Stephanie Rhodes pounded four consecutive kills off Barrow assists to help ignite a game-ending 8-0 run. Narron added one kill and Kasie Braswell served three aces.
Billups and senior Tomeka Pride staked Spring Creek to a 5-1 lead in game two. Narron's kill against Billups' solo block and Hill's block against Courtney Oxendine started a 4-0 run, which forged a 5-5 tie.
The Eagles slowly pulled away and held the Gators scoreless on four consecutive serve attempts. Rosewood converted 11 sideouts during the first two games combined and allowed Spring Creek to win just 13 points off 17 service rotations.
"We didn't have very many missed serves, which is good, but we just couldn't play off of it ... win the rally after the serve," said second-year Spring Creek coach Deana Morris. "One spot was open (on the court) and we tried to hit it, but hit the ball out and got discouraged.
"Then we tried to tip a little bit to pull them in (defensively), but we didn't control the ball like we needed to."
Hill smacked a kill off Lorenda Brogden's solo block and it slipped inside the 3-meter line to end game two.
Spring Creek scrapped for every point and loose ball in the third game, but couldn't overcome early serve-receive miscues. The Eagles served two aces and mishandled passes led to two other points in their 7-2 run.
The Gators later grabbed one-point leads on two occasions, but couldn't keep serve. Braswell's kill after a monster dig by Kelli Gurley put Rosewood ahead 22-20. The teams traded points off unforced errors until Braswell finished off Spring Creek with just her second kill of the night.
"It was a total team effort," said Cochran. "(This title) has been in the works for six years. We've always wanted a banner in the gym and that was our first step. These girls since they've been freshmen have had their sights set on it.
"They took it one step at a time. They just wanted it so, so bad. I praise that group of six (seniors) for their leadership and their attitudes. I think this season will be remembered for a long time."
The Rosewood women's basketball team earned the distinction of winning the school's first-ever conference title in 1940. Nearly seven decades later, the volleyball team emerged the 14th varsity program to claim a regular-season championship. Overall, Eagle athletic teams have combined to win 59 conference crowns in men's and women's competition.
Notes: Hill emerged Rosewood's leader in kills with 16, while Narron and Rhodes provided 12 and 10, respectively. Overall, the Eagles had 42 kills as a team. ... Billups paced Spring Creek with four kills and three blocks. ... Brooke Boggan recorded a team-high 10 digs, while Billups and Oxendine each had nine.
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