10/15/10 — Eagles claim five-set thriller

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Eagles claim five-set thriller

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 15, 2010 1:46 PM

No matter the sport and no matter the time of year, archrivals Rosewood and Princeton undoubtedly stage a nail-biting, thrilling affair that leaves their respective fans on the edge of their seats.

Thursday evening was no exception.

Ellen Morgan's off-speed kill on match point capped yet another volleyball classic that took two-plus hours to decide in the Eagles' Nest. Morgan pounded out a match- and career-high 20 kills in Rosewood's 18-25, 26-24, 18-25, 25-21, 18-16 triumph in the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Eagles (16-4 overall) claimed their second consecutive Carolina 1-A Conference championship, and secured the No. 1 seed for next week's league tournament and the upcoming state playoffs.

The Dogs (13-7, 8-2 CC) grabbed the No. 2 seed for the tournament.

"We played okay tonight ... not to the top of our potential and we made mistakes at crucial times that hurt us," said Rosewood head coach Jennifer Cochran. "It was heart that pulled us through. In a close game like this, it could have gone either way. We just got persistent, even though we missed a couple of serves that we shouldn't have missed.

"Somehow we pulled it out."

The teams battled through 17 ties and 13 lead changes in the five-set affair. Rosewood erased a five-point deficit in the fourth set and rallied from three down in the fifth set. The Eagles have won three of the last five meetings in the series.

Princeton served eight aces in the opening set and benefited from 14 Rosewood errors. The Dogs built a five-point advantage midway through the second set, but the Eagles forged a 24-24 deadlock on Megann Tyndall's ace.

Anna Ingram's kill on an overpass, and another Tyndall ace closed out the set.

The Dogs played a deliberate tempo in the third set and the Eagles could never get into their offensive system. The teams traded transition balls and Princeton capitalized on mistakes to win the set.

Morgan warmed up in the fourth set.

After losing a joust at the net against Nicole Melvin, the freshman middle hitter ripped off five kills in a set-ending 10-5 run. Senior setter Alyssa Spell (32 assists) kept feeding Morgan, who exploited weak areas in the Dogs' defense.

"That's a freshman," said Cochran of Morgan. "She stepped up big for us, got some blocks and I think it just carried over into the fifth set. She just put the ball where it needed to go."

Morgan logged five kills and one solo block in the final set, which helped give Rosewood match point at 15-14. The Dogs answered with Melvin's kill and Keely Myers' ace to go ahead 16-15.

Laura Vinson's off-speed kill and an error put the Eagles back in front, 17-16. Morgan did the rest.

"We had some strong net play at times and had good digs on the back, so we did good job adjusting, but sometimes we got caught up the net and not covering close for blocks or tips," said Dogs head coach Trudi Rast. "The last set, we stopped hitting ... that's where they won, they hit those last two points when they needed it."

The Eagles owned a 40-36 edge in team kills.

Traci Bridgers led the Dogs with 11 kills, while Melvin and Savanna Massengill provided nine kills apiece. Linda Smith passed out 28 assists.

Vinson finished with five aces, and senior Rachael Kornegay collected eight kills and one block.

"I think we all did our job individually and that's something we haven't been doing all year," said Cochran. "It's like a puzzle, if we all do our job, it's going to work ... paint a really good picture."

This one was all purple and gold.