10/16/09 — Princeton earns sweep, portion of league crown

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Princeton earns sweep, portion of league crown

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 16, 2009 1:46 PM

PRINCETON -- Princeton didn't waste its second chance.

Not with a conference championship at stake.

Fueled by a disappointing loss to their archrival three weeks ago, the Dawgs served their way past Rosewood on Thursday evening. Princeton ripped off 15 aces in a 25-16, 25-15, 25-18 victory in the Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season finale for both teams.

The Dawgs (14-5 overall, 9-1 CC) foiled the Eagles' bid to clinch the conference championship outright and earn the No. 1 seed for next week's N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs. Instead, the two perennial powerhouses will share the league crown for the second time since 2006.

Rosewood (12-8, 9-1) won the coin toss after the match and will host the semifinal and final rounds of the conference tournament, which starts Monday. Should the Dawgs and Eagles advance to the title match, the winner gets the coveted No. 1 berth.

"They knew they didn't come to play like they could have," said Princeton coach Trudi Rast of her team's previous meeting with Rosewood. "They were really ready to face them again and play Bulldog ball. Our serves made a huge difference tonight and we lacked that when we played them before.

"Over and in is what we ask ... just get the ball on their side of the net and they've been working hard getting it in play."

Princeton's strong serving disrupted Rosewood's normal passing game. Setters Stephanie Hall and Alyssa Spell had a difficult time tracking down balls and creating consistent attacks for middle hitters Taylor Johnson (match-high 13 kills) and Rachael Kornegay (one kill).

"We didn't pass well tonight," said Eagles coach Jennifer Cochran. "We didn't pass well when Taylor was on the front row. Taylor passed well on the back row, but we couldn't put it away on the front row.

"Sometimes things go against you for a reason and we just don't know what those are."

Bulldog setter Erin Schultze distributed a match-high 12 assists among four hitters -- Hannah Wood (seven kills), Nicole Melvin, Maegan Myers and Rebecca Harlan. Those five seniors, along with Taylor Heath, helped Princeton collect its second conference crown with Rast as head coach, and seventh overall in program history.

The teams traded unforced errors and serve miscues throughout the opening set. Down 15-14, the Dawgs started a set-clinching 11-1 run on an unforced error and Wood's kill off Schultze's assist.

Junior Traci Bridgers continued the run with three aces and Melvin set up set point with a kill off Schultze's assist. Kornegay got a sideout for Rosewood, but an off-speed hitting error gave the Dawgs set point.

Princeton steadily pulled away in the second set and clinched it on an Eagle service error. Johnson (two blocks) kept Rosewood within striking distance in the decisive third set, but hitting errors and serve-receive trouble allowed the Dawgs to emerge victorious.

"They played with all their heart and every ball rolled their way," said Cochran of Princeton. "There was nothing that rolled our way and sometimes you have games like that. I don't think my girls stood around, they gave it everything they had."