10/24/07 — NCHSAA volleyball playoffs: Rosewood eliminates East Carteret in 4 games

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NCHSAA volleyball playoffs: Rosewood eliminates East Carteret in 4 games

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on October 24, 2007 3:04 PM

Rosewood volleyball coach Jennifer Cochran seemed resigned to the fact she faced a rebuilding season in late September.

The loss of 13 seniors to graduation over a two-year period seemed to take its toll. Cochran wondered if her team would ever survive its growing pains.

Now she knows.

Led by their youngest player, Taylor Johnson, the Eagles are soaring now. They continued their late-season surge with a 25-23, 10-25, 25-16, 25-13 victory over East Carteret in a second-round, N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A playoff match Tuesday evening.

"We knew if we could pull together, we could accomplish anything," said Johnson.

Since its 3-9 start, Rosewood has prevailed in seven of its last nine outings. The Eagles continue their postseason run Thursday evening at unbeaten Dixon, the Coastal Plains Conference champion.

"I thought we stuck with our game plan, which was hit it to the corners and keep the ball off the net," said Cochran. "We held it together as a group."

A big key to the Eagles' success was the play of Johnson. The sophomore's hard kills, key blocks and well-placed serves continually ignited her team while deflating the spirits of East Carteret.

Johnson finished with team-highs of 14 kills, three service aces and two blocks. Her back row of Paige Babb and Ashley Williams consistently put balls in the perfect location for Johnson to slam them down.

"We all put in a team effort, though," said Johnson. "It wasn't just me. We all came together and played like a team."

While that was true in three of the four games, something was seriously lacking in the second. Rosewood had taken the first game 25-23 when East Carteret claimed a 15-point win in game two.

"We dropped our heads," said Cochran. "We started pointing fingers and stopped playing together. When that happens you can't play.

"We got it back together in the third game."

In the critical game, Rosewood bolted out to a 6-0 lead and extended the margin to 18-9 thanks in part to a plethora of kills by Johnson.

"When (East Carteret) hit it over the net, (Taylor) capitalized and put it down," said Cochran. "She kept the ball in the box really well tonight compared to her play earlier in the season. She's just gotten better every single week."

The Mariners battled back and pulled to within 18-16, but then Johnson took over. Johnson put down a kill and served five straight points -- two of them aces -- to help give Rosewood the game.

"Taylor really brought us back in the third game," said Cochran. "She did a great job."

With momentum squarely on Rosewood's side, the Eagles ran out to a 14-5 lead in the fourth game. This time, the Mariners had no answer as they fell victim to Johnson's strong play as well as their own mistakes.

Williams' thunderous kill was the emphatic exclamation point in the game and the match win for Rosewood.

"From September to now, I never thought we'd be in this position," said Cochran. "We've really improved a lot."