10/27/10 — Camden rallies, eliminates Princeton

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Camden rallies, eliminates Princeton

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 27, 2010 1:46 PM

PRINCETON -- Finish the set.

The season-long issue surfaced again for Princeton during its second-round contest against Camden County in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A volleyball playoffs Tuesday evening.

The Bulldogs surrendered late-set runs at critical points and endured a season-ending 25-22, 25-16, 20-25, 23-25, 12-15 loss.

"We couldn't finish," said Princeton head coach Trudi Rast. "We've had lots of opportunities this whole season and we stop (playing). (Today) we stopped playing to win and started playing not to lose."

Camden, the No. 5 seed from the Four Rivers Conference, continues play Thursday at league rival Riverside-Martin. The Bears picked up their 35th postseason victory in program history.

Princeton finished the year 14-9 overall.

"Inconsistent has been the story of our season, but we're finding ways to pull it together when we need to and that's all that matters right now," said Bears head coach Summer Buxton.

The teams battled through 27 ties and 22 lead changes in the 2-hour, 6-minute affair.

Princeton broke a 21-21 deadlock in the opening set on Nicole Melvin's kill of Linda Smith's assist. The teams traded sideouts before Savanna Massengill and senior Jenna Aycock posted back-to-back kills to close the set.

The Bulldogs controlled the tempo and played steady to defense during the second set. The Bears led 5-4 when Traci Bridgers slammed a kill off a block to start a decisive 12-2 run. Camden never recovered.

"We knew they were scrappy and we were going to have to limit our mistakes because we heard that they keep the ball in play," said Buxton. "We have six seniors on the team, so I laid it on the line (in the third set). I said 'you've got to pull it together right here. If we lose, we go home. If we win, we keep playing."

Camden mixed up its serves with short and long balls, and began using off-speed hits to spread Princeton's defense late during its third-set win. The strategy carried over into the early stages of the fourth set.

The Dogs broke a 7-7 tie on an unforced error and Melvin's ace. Bridgers' off-speed shot and Massengill's kill extended the advantage to 11-7. The Bears rallied for a 19-19 tie and grabbed momentum on three straight aces from libero Katie Reed and Danielle Tuss' dump shot to the middle.

Princeton climbed within 24-23, but Camden forced the winner-take-all set with Kara Pipkin's off-speed shot that dropped just inside the 3-meter line.

"They did a good job covering the court, working together and they started working more hits and tips at the net," said Rast. "I don't think they worked the net in sets one and two. (We) were playing scared. (Assistant) coach (Paige) Renfrow said they were playing frantic. Everyone was running to the ball instead of taking a deep breath and playing their game."

Camden bolted to a 9-3 lead in the fifth set, only to see Princeton tie it at 10-10 on Massengill's kill off another Smith assist. Smith finished the match with a double-double -- 37 assists, 20 digs.

A hitting error created a 12-12 tie before the Bears reeled off the final three points to seal the comeback win.