10/13/06 — Rosewood earns share of Carolina 1-A crown

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Rosewood earns share of Carolina 1-A crown

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 13, 2006 2:23 PM

Rosewood High athletics director Daniel Barrow probably found a sticky note from volleyball coach Jennifer Cochran on his desk Friday morning.

"Dear coach Barrow: We tied Princeton for the regular-season title. Please put an "06" on our conference championship banner at your earliest convenience."

The Eagles (17-3) obtained a share of the Class 1-A Carolina Conference crown with an impressive 25-20, 25-11, 25-10 victory over the Bulldogs on Thursday evening. The archrivals finished tied atop the league standings at 8-2 and each has clinched an opening-round bye for the season-ending conference tournament, which begins Monday.

Athletic officials met Friday morning for a coin flip to determine the No. 1 seed and tournament host. First-round matches will be hosted by the third-seeded team, while the No. 1 seed will play host to the semifinals and finals.

"We've been a team that's gotten better each game since our Ayden-Grifton loss," said Cochran, who has 110 career victories. "I just told them to go out there and have a good time. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain today. They played extremely well and did everything today that we did in practice."

In their previous meeting, Rosewood struggled with its net game. Cochran remedied the problem by using a cone theory in Wednesday's practice. The cones represented holes left by Princeton's defense and players had to hit off-speed shots to those spots.

"We knew that's where they weren't going to be," said Cochran. "We put the ball where they weren't and that was our whole mission today."

Princeton coach Trudy Rast agreed Rosewood had the stronger net game -- defensively and offensively. The Eagles pounded out 22 kills compared to a season-low 10 for the Bulldogs.

"They did a real good job of finding the (open) hole," said Rast. "One thing that really made a difference the last time we played Rosewood is a strong net (game). Today, we probably had 10 hits from the whole team.

"We were playing scared and safe, instead of playing to win."

The Bulldogs (16-4) played aggressive in the opening set and raced to a 5-1 lead. The Eagles, however, weathered the early run and rallied for a 7-7 tie. Courtney Hill served three aces and Ashley Williams provided two kills off assists from Aubrey Reinhard.

Rosewood pulled away with Williams on the service line. Senior outside hitter Kasie Braswell successfully converted four consecutive kill attempts and Hill added a kill to put the Eagles in front 18-15.

"At the beginning of the year, we weren't clicking as well," said Braswell, who finished with eight kills. "All of our passes were really good and our sets were tight to the net like we like them. We just put the ball down ... worked on getting it to the corners.

"We watched the blockers and hit away from them."

The teams traded sideouts before Braswell mashed back-to-back kills off two more Reinhard assists. Roxie Phillips closed out the set with an ace down the line. The Eagles served four aces in the opening set and 18 overall.

"We served the ball well and kept it to the corners and out of the middle," said Cochran. "That was a really big key in the game. We mixed it up well."

Princeton's struggles in the passing game surfaced in the second set. Rast's team yielded numerous free balls to the Eagles, who constantly pressured the Bulldogs' defense with off-speed shots and strong kill attempts.

"We were just going through the motions," said Rast. "We weren't moving our feet, we weren't getting under the ball and we were not working together as a team.

"We were playing more like middle school."

Rosewood turned a 3-0 deficit into a comfortable 12-4 lead in the final set. Hill emerged the offensive leader with three kills and two service aces during a 12-1 run.

Princeton couldn't generate any offense and never recovered from its miscues. The Bulldogs finished with seven attack errors and seven unforced errors.

Rast contributed the lack of consistent play to a five-set loss Tuesday and a week filled with distractions associated with the Bulldogs' homecoming football game.

"We have our minds on other things," said Rast, who guided Princeton to its first conference crown since 2002. "I feel like we haven't been focused on volleyball."

Meanwhile, part of the Eagles' focus unexpectedly turned to the conference championship after Ayden-Grifton shocked Princeton. Braswell and her senior mates -- Hill, Reinhard (15 assists), Phillips, Ericka Farrior and Carissa Morrison -- wanted to add an "06" to that bright purple banner hanging in the gym.

"It just feels great ... awesome," said Braswell.