10/30/05 — 1-A Volleyball playoffs -- Rosewood keeps rolling

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1-A Volleyball playoffs -- Rosewood keeps rolling

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 30, 2005 2:14 AM

Take a game off us?


Win in our house?

Not a chance.

Perennial power Pender pounded out a 25-6, opening-set victory Saturday evening against Rosewood. But the Eagles never flinched and responded with a resounding knockout of their own -- a 6-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-16 victory in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A volleyball quarterfinals.

Rosewood remained unbeaten in 25 outings and entertains Heide Trask (20-2) in the eastern regional championship match next Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Titans, wild-card entrants and members of the Waccamaw Conference, advanced with a 3-2 win against Camden County.

The Patriots, the 2-A state runner-up in 2003 and eastern finalists last season, concluded the year 21-2.

"We had heard how great Pender was the whole time," said Rosewood senior Kelli Gurley.


Six-foot-2 outside hitter Brittany Roper, a junior, delivered four kills in a 7-0 run. Britton Piner provided a solo block and the Eagles aided the visitors' cause with three unforced errors. Rosewood earned its first point off a Patriot ball-handling error and tallied just two points overall during four service rotations.

Pender concluded the opening set with 10 kills, including five by Roper. The Patriots collected three blocks and three service aces, and committed just one error -- a serve-receive miscue that led to Rosewood's final point of the set.

"(Roper) was an awesome hitter ... she was bringing it," said Gurley. "We were a little scared to start off with, but we realized we had to rise to the occasion and dig her up. We wanted to win it."

Rosewood soon discovered two key elements that slowly factored into the overall outcome.

Roper's strong hitting disguised Pender's weakness of inconsistent offense when she went to the back row to serve. The Eagles also countered by attacking the opposite side of Roper, which disrupted the Patriots' passing game and forced other players to generate offense.

"(Roper) is phenonemal and she's going to go places ... big," said Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran. "We capitalized when she was on the back row. We got our serves in and put the ball down when she was out of the game.

"We tried to mix it up. Every time we hit it to the right side, they set her up every time really well. So we started hitting the hole on the left side, then they weren't able to set her up well. We kept them off balance and were able to get free balls off of it."

The teams battled to a 5-5 tie in the second set. Junior middle hitter Courtney Hill ignited the offense with four consecutive kills, either just outside the 3-meter line or deep in the right corner. Kasie Braswell added a solo kill to boost the Eagles' advantage to 10-6.

Roper kept Pender close with monster outside kills, but the Patriots started piling up unforced errors once she exited the game. Rosewood maintained its four-point lead and eventually pulled away on a Clare Narron ace, and back-to-back kills from Hill.

Pender seized a seven-point lead early in the third game, but the Eagles steadily kept the ball in play. Cochran's crew tied the game at 14-14, 15-15 and 16-16 before falling behind 18-16. Five consecutive kills from Roper made the score 23-20 and it appeared the Patriots would take the third game.

Not in the Eagles' Nest.

Hill delivered a kill to pull Rosewood within 23-22. Abigail Barrow's off-speed hit clipped the back line and an unforced Patriot error put the Eagles in front 24-22. Hill finished off the Patriots with a kill off the left hand of sophomore middle blocker Lauren Lanier.

"(The second game) brought us up from the bottom to the top," said Gurley. "We were a completely different team that third set. We minimized our mistakes, tried to capitalize on theirs and we had to keep digging her (Roper) up."

Rosewood claimed the early lead in the final game. Pender stayed within two points until Barrow served three consecutive aces for a 12-6 cushion. The teams traded points, but the Eagles grabbed considerable momentum with a 5-1 run that included two Braswell kills and two off-speed hits by Stephanie Rhodes.

Roper returned to the front line with Pender down and recorded two huge kills. But Gurley, Hill and Narron -- who combined for 12 digs in the game -- kept Roper from scoring any more points. Braswell and Roper traded kills before Narron won a match-clinching joust at the net against Erin Gurgainous.

"We felt if we could get the momentum, we'd keep on going," said Gurley, who recorded a team-high 12 digs on defense. "It's phenomenal that we beat Pender. This is a great feeling and one of our greatest wins."

Notes: Rosewood beat a conference champion for the third straight time. ... Barrow handed out a playoff-low 23 assists after averaging 30-plus the first three matches. ... Hill paced Rosewood with 13 kills, while Braswell contributed eight. ... Pender has two seniors -- libero Tiffany Taylor and outside hitter Lisa Thomas, who watched the match in street clothes. ... The Patriots' lone loss before Saturday occurred against 4-A power Wilmington Hoggard. ... Pender committed 28 unforced errors after the first game.