09/30/09 — Rosewood takes sole possession of first place

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Rosewood takes sole possession of first place

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 30, 2009 1:47 PM



Mental edge.

And Taylor Johnson.

Rosewood had all those intangibles in its favor Tuesday afternoon.

A senior middle hitter, Johnson provided a double-double -- 20 kills, 16 digs -- in a 25-18, 25-17, 25-21 triumph over archrival Princeton. The Eagles claimed sole possession of the Carolina 1-A Conference lead at 5-0 and begin second-half play Thursday against Ayden-Grifton.

The Dawgs exited 9-5 in all contests this season, including a 4-1 worksheet against league opposition.

"I think we came to play ball today," said Rosewood head coach Jennifer Cochran. "I think we are evenly-matched teams as far as ability and I think their servers are actually stronger than ours."

But the Eagles (7-7) missed only one serve in 25 rotations during the three-set affair compared to six service miscues for the Dawgs. Rosewood reverted to its normal defensive tactics, covered the floor well and hardly let a ball drop on Princeton attacks.

The Eagles' mental stability proved crucial, especially in the third set. The Dawgs served strong, fed off the Eagles' unforced errors and built an 18-9 lead.

"The third game was more like us, but it seemed like we were still on our heels," said sixth-year Princeton coach Trudi Rast. "The girls were more relaxed compared to the first two games where we were uptight and tense. Today really seemed to be more of a mental game ... (us) playing more not to lose instead of playing to win."

Rosewood, indeed, played to win.

A serve error and Rachael Kornegay's kill started a match-ending 16-3 run. Taylor and Laura Vinson combined for seven kills and Kornegay served an ace to close the gap to 20-19.

Vinson's final kill of the match rolled along the tape and dropped just in front of a diving Rebecca Harlan to make it 20-20. Rosewood extended its lead to 22-20 before Harlan connected on a kill off Erin Schultze's assist.

Sawkiw saved a shanked pass by Taylor and rolled the ball deep to the left corner for a point. Vinson's ace and Taylor's monster kill off Alyssa Spell's assist completed the stirring comeback.

The Dawgs scored only one point on their final four service rotations.

"To be down that far in the third set and to come back, I think that shows a lot of heart," said Cochran. "I just think they wanted it bad."

Rosewood controlled the first two sets with short offensive spurts and relied on its defense to keep the lead. Johnson recorded 10 digs in the second set as Princeton constantly hit toward middle court instead of using the lines to stretch the defense, and create holes for off-speed shots.

"Our defense was amazing," said Cochran.

Spell and Sawkiw handed out 15 and 16 assists, respectively, among five different Rosewood hitters. Kornegay supplied six kills and one block, while Megann Tyndall contributed three kills. Vinson logged two kills.

Schultze passed out 10 assists for the Dawgs. Nicole Melvin notched a team-leading four kills.