Princeton rallies from 2-0 deficit, clips Eagles
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on September 26, 2007 3:00 PM
There's usually a handful of turning points over the course of a season.
For Princeton and Rosewood, their Class 1-A Carolina Conference showdown Tuesday evening could very easily prove to be one of those turning points.
The Eagles grabbed a two-game advantage and appeared to be headed toward their first conference victory of the season. But the Bulldogs stormed back for a 20-25, 20-25, 25-22, 26-24, 15-9 victory.
Princeton trailed 5-0 in the decisive fifth game, but rattled off 15 of the next 19 points behind the serving of Amber Wood. Wood's seven consecutive service points, including three aces, turned a 6-3 deficit into a 10-6 lead.
"We just wanted it more," Princeton coach Trudi Rast said. "Our hearts were in it. Amber is a great server, and that could have very easily been the turning point in the game. I didn't want to go home after three games and my players didn't either.
"This is a major turning point because on Thursday we start over in the conference. We have to keep improving."
With a pivotal conference match hanging in the balance, Rosewood's youth possibly factored into the Dawgs' eight-point run, which was fueled by unforced errors.
"I think my team has come along way and that we played well today," Rosewood coach Jennifer Cochran said. "We've lost 13 people the last two years and we're still young. It's definitely youth, none of those girls have ever played together and there's only one returner from last season."
Working its passing game around the net to perfection early on, Rosewood hammered out 11 kills en route to a 25-20 triumph in game one. Taylor Johnson tallied five of her match-high 18 kills in the first frame. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were limited to just three kills in game one.
Well-placed serves and more domination around the net helped pace the Eagles' offense in game two. Rosewood found creases in Princeton's defense to pick up aces on nine separate occasions, while Johnson netted five more kills in the 25-20 victory.
"If we pass well then we're going to hit well," Cochran said. "I just can't pinpoint what our problem is."
From the outset of game three, it appeared at times as if two entirely different teams were out on the floor. Mistakes that had eluded the Eagles became prevalent, and the rhythm and passing that once keyed their offense slowly diminished.
Princeton jumped out to a 14-7 lead only to later fall behind 22-21. A key ace from Nikki Capps and an Eagles' error helped Princeton climb back to within striking distance and prevail 25-22.
"We're a great team, but in those first two games we just weren't clicking," Rast said. "In those last three games I could definitely see a difference in our communication."
Riding a visible wave of momentum, Princeton wasted no time seizing control at 8-2 in game four. During one stretch, Rosewood lost five consecutive points due to miscues as Princeton's lead swelled to 19-9.
The Eagles didn't go away quietly, however, as three kills and three aces from Johnson spearheaded a rally that helped Rosewood go in front 23-22. Katie Sasser's kill, an ace from Devon Murphy and a Rosewood error helped the Bulldogs rally to a 26-24 win.
Ashley Braswell finished with six kills and two aces for the Bulldogs. Johnson added five aces and three blocks to go along with her 18 kills.
With the victory, Princeton improved to 8-6 overall and 4-1 in Carolina 1-A Conference play. In the process, the Bulldogs sent out a message regarding their level of heart and determination.
"They showed what kind of heart they had in those last three games," Rast said of her team. "They wanted to come out here and come away with a 'W.'"
Meanwhile, Rosewood (3-8 overall) remained winless in five league outings. With a talented but young roster, turning close losses into learning experiences and ultimately victories, is something Cochran hopes to see her team achieve as it begins the second half of conference play when it hosts Ayden-Grifton on Thursday.
"We'll learn from this (Wednesday) at practice," Cochran said. "It's nothing physical. Right now it's just a mental block for us. Going 0-5 in the conference, you have to look at that we don't stink like it's been talked up.
"We've been in every game, and every game we've lost, we've lost by two points pretty much."
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