Bulldogs turn back archrival in four
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on September 28, 2011 1:48 PM
Emotion, intensity and determination burned deep within Princeton's collective soul on Tuesday afternoon.
Rosewood couldn't match its archrival's desire.
Senior setter Linda Smith distributed 36 assists, while Hannah Woodard and Savanna Massengill each pounded out a match-high 12 kills as the Bulldogs seized sole possession of the Class 1-A Carolina Conference volleyball lead with a 25-15, 23-25, 25-17, 25-18 victory inside an intimidating Eagles' Nest.
A second-set replay, close calls at the service line and corners, and tight play at the net further intensified the battle for the league's top spot. The bang-bang decisions drew boos and jeers from each team's fans, but Princeton never lost sight of its goal.
The Bulldogs (11-5 overall, 5-0 CC) snapped a two-game slide against the Eagles and won for the eighth time in the series since 2004.
"A desire to win ... desire to be out here," said Princeton interim head coach Paige Renfrow. "I felt like tonight we were fighting both the referees and fighting Rosewood. It's tough to do both. I felt like at some points in the game, the referees would make a ridiculous call and throw our momentum completely off.
"But we were able to bounce back, end up finishing strong."
The Eagles (9-5, 4-1) continued to play without head coach Jennifer Cochran, who is out on maternity leave. The players dedicated the match to their coach, but struggled to find consistency in the four-set affair.
"They tried to win it," said Rosewood interim head coach Wade Johnson. "They played with a lot of heart, but you've got to have all the parts when you play them."
Princeton annoyed Rosewood with its ability to get touches on every ball that came over the net. The Bulldogs remained steady in their single-block coverage and transitioned well from defense to offense.
Libero Katlyn Peedin collected a team-leading 19 digs for a defense that refused to let a ball touch the floor. Consistent passing from the back row and attacks from different areas of the court constantly forced Rosewood out of its system.
"It seems like they brought back every ball and we brought back only half the balls," said Johnson. "It seems like they were more scrappier than us tonight. I couldn't find a back row (combination) that could pass the ball."
The Bulldogs hit just .154 for the match with 42 team kills. The Eagles recorded a .000 hitting percentage through three sets, but improved to .100 with a 12-kill fourth set.
Princeton controlled the opening set and closed it on Woodard's ace.
The Eagles seized a 7-1 lead in the second set, only to see the Bulldogs eventually tie it at 21-21 on Amber Hill's kill. Princeton fended off two set points before committing a kill error.
Woodard logged four kills during an early 13-3 run in the fourth set. The lead ballooned to 10 points before Rosewood middle hitter Ellen Morgan rotated to the front line. The sophomore recorded two kills and a solo block, which trimmed the deficit to 20-14.
Princeton pulled away to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five battle.
"We capitalized when the hard hitters were on the back," said Renfrow. "I told my girls that was the most important thing. If we do that, then we'll the game."
Woodard delivered two kills and Smith served three aces to put Princeton ahead 5-1 in the final set. Morgan began hitting off-speed cut shots inside the 3-meter line to keep the Eagles within striking distance, but they couldn't close the deficit.
Morgan finished with 11 kills. Setters Megann Tyndall, Stephanie Hall and Rachyle McAlduff combined for 28 assists.
"We're not out of it," said Johnson. "(Today's match) is just one part of the complete package and we'll try to put them on the spot when we go to their house."