09/24/10 — Rosewood takes five-set thriller

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Rosewood takes five-set thriller

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 24, 2010 1:47 PM

Bright purple ribbons taped to one wall memorialized cancer victims.

Pink balloons swayed in the air-conditioned gym.

This day meant more than just a volleyball contest to the players, families, friends and supporters from the Rosewood and North Duplin communities. They gathered in memory of loved ones who have passed away from cancer to raise money with the faith that scientists will develop a cure for one of the nation's leading causes of death.

The Eagles and Rebels met for the first of two matches in the third annual "Serving Up a Cure" series, and staged an exhausting, five-set war in the Rosewood gym Thursday evening. Middle hitter Ellen Morgan cranked out a team-leading 12 kills and Alyssa Spell dished out 22 assists in the Eagles' 25-22, 25-14, 18-25, 17-25, 15-10 victory.

Rosewood has won four of the five meetings since the teams turned the annual regular-season series into a fund-raising opportunity for cancer research. Donations, sales from concessions and baked goods, and money raised from a silent auction will benefit the Wayne County Relay for Life.

"Everybody here had a lot of people they were playing for and fought really hard," said Spell. "We really connected as a team more than we ever have (this season) and this had a lot of emphasis on how hard we need to play (each match) and get it done.

"I think it was a lot of pressure on us and a lot of pressure on our coach. It was tough, but it was good that we pulled it out."

The five-set triumph kept the Eagles (9-3 overall, 4-0 CC) tied with archrival Princeton for the top spot in conference play. Their annual mid-season showdown is next Tuesday in the Bulldogs' gym.

The Rebels (5-7, 2-2) conclude first-half league play at home Tuesday against border rival Spring Creek.

"It was a great effort," said North Duplin head coach Heather Best. "I tell my girls all the time that failure is not falling down, it's not getting up. With us tonight, we could have quit after (losing) those first two (sets), but we fought back."

Rosewood trailed early in the opening set, but forged a 17-17 tie on Laura Vinson's ace. Morgan and outside hitter Megann Tyndall combined for three consecutive kills to help the Eagles cap the comeback.

The Eagles won 10 of the first 15 points in the second set and feasted off 13 Rebels errors to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five affair.

Angelica Favela's off-speed dump and Tearra Ammons' kill off Hannah Brock's assist ignited North Duplin late in the third set. Tied at 16-16, the Rebels used an 11-2 to force a fourth set.

Scarlett Martin's kill off another Brock assist spearheaded an 8-2 surge midway through the fourth set. The Eagles committed costly unforced errors and the Rebels triumphed, which led to the decisive fifth set.

"I don't if we just settled down or what," said Best of the comeback. "If I could, I would fix it tomorrow at practice so we never do it again. Our biggest problem so far this year has been a momentum issue.

"We finally decided we wanted it after the second set. We fought and played three good sets there at the end."

Morgan pounded out back-to-back kills to give Rosewood a 5-2 advantage early in the fifth set. Jennifer Liles' ace, Rachael Kornegay's off-speed kill and two more kills from Tyndall gave the Eagles' a commanding 13-5 lead.

The Rebels climbed within 14-10 on back-to-back kills from Ammons. Spell closed out the match with an off-speed hit.

Vinson (seven kills) and Kerri Jo Gurley served six aces apiece for Rosewood, which picked up its 13th regular-season conference win in its last 14 outings. Kornegay added nine kills.

Ammons and Skylar McCarty paced the Rebels with 13 and nine kills, respectively. Brock handed out 23 assists.

"I think both teams played tremendous and the ball just happened to roll our way in the fifth set," said Eagles head coach Jennifer Cochran. "They're not a bad team and I'll put that out there. I thought we were evenly matched in my opinion.

"I think both teams really did what we were here to do. I think we served up a cure."