10/18/06 — We meet again Ñ Rosewood, Princeton reach Carolina 1-A volleyball title match

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We meet again Ñ Rosewood, Princeton reach Carolina 1-A volleyball title match

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 18, 2006 2:14 PM

Rosewood and Princeton, which tied for Class 1-A Carolina Conference regular-season supremacy, needed little time to eliminate their respective opponents during Tuesday's semifinal-round play.

The top-seeded Eagles launched defense of their tournament title with a 25-22, 25-15, 25-21 conquest of fifth-seeded North Johnston. The match took 68 minutes to complete. Meanwhile, the Dawgs required just 59 minutes to turn back third-seeded Ayden-Grifton 25-22, 25-19, 25-11.

The two archrivals meet at 6 p.m. today with more than just a tournament title on the line. The winner clinches the No. 1 seed for the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs, which begin Saturday.

"A huge game tomorrow," said Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran.

Senior middle hitter Courtney Hill provided match highs of nine kills and seven solo blocks in the Eagles' three-game sweep. Kasie Braswell added four kills, while Ashley Williams contributed three kills.

Senior Aubrey Reinhard dished out eight of the team's 13 assists.

Rosewood, which claimed its third consecutive tournament win, raced to a 17-1 lead in the opening game. Hill successfully converted five straight kill attempts and Braswell served three aces during that stretch.

"We got off to a great start and served the ball well," said Cochran, whose team recorded 12 aces. "We were placing our serves."

The Eagles maintained the double-digit advantage and worked to game point at 24-9 on Braswell's kill. A serving error gave the Panthers the sideout and Kayla Whitley stepped into the service area.

Whitley engineered a 13-point run with five aces as North Johnston pulled within 24-22. A ball-handling error gave Rosewood the first game 25-22.

"Their two servers 22 (Whitley) and 21 (Brittney Keene) kept us off balance the whole game, and they need to be commended for that," said Cochran. "They did a great job. They served outside to the line and corners.

"But I think we were flat tonight."

Rosewood (18-3) played steady in the second game and prevented North Johnston from attempting another stirring comeback. The Panthers seized a six-point lead in game three, but couldn't keep the momentum.

Reinhard's ace tied game three at 15-15. The teams battled to three more ties before back-to-back hitting errors allowed the Eagles to pull away and close out the match.

North Johnston committed 19 attack errors, eight serve errors and 11 unforced errors. Six of those service errors, along with eight dropped balls, occurred in the decisive third game.

"If you look at the margin of what the score was, the margin was those things," said veteran Panthers coach Nicole Davis, whose team yielded 38 total points on miscues. "We're just real young. For them being so young, they have to do the little things. We didn't pass the ball well and serving errors cost us."

Keene led North Johnston with seven kills, while Sam Holland dished out 13 assists.

Princeton snapped its two-match skid and controlled the middle-hit attack against Ayden-Grifton. Sarah Gibbs collected a match-high nine kills and added two blocks, while Stephanie Daughtry chipped in seven kills and one block.

"Sarah did a good job playing strong against (Jessica) Teachey, who is a real good middle hitter. That helped us a lot," said third-year Princeton coach Trudy Rast.

Teachey had eight kills for the Chargers, who exited 9-9 overall.

The Dawgs pounded out 23 kills and recorded 11 aces in the three-set affair. The difference, however, was Princeton's two service errors compared to 13 for Ayden-Grifton. The Chargers had seven serve errors in game two.

"Serving is the name of the game and we didn't," said Chargers coach Kathy Frazier. "We did not step up and play like we needed to, or like we're capable of playing. Princeton has got a good team, but we did a lot to hurt us.

"Not to say that the outcome would have been any different, but we didn't do what we needed to do as a team at this level."

Gibbs posted a majority of her kills and blocks in the opening game. Ayden-Grifton never found a rhythm offensively and played sporadic in its middle-hit attack. Casey Mathis and Cait Skinner combined for nine of the Chargers' 11 assists.

"We could never get in synch," said Frazier.

With the victory, Princeton (17-4) assured itself of a home playoff contest Saturday. Depending on today's result, the Dawgs could host either the Super Six No. 4 or Coastal Plains No. 3 rep. Rosewood faces the same scenario.

Ayden-Grifton is the guest of Super Six champion Lakewood. North Duplin, which secured its first playoff bid since 1990, is at perennial power Pender. North Johnston is eligible for wild-card entry, but won't know its status until the seeded teams are placed in the 32-team eastern bracket.