10/14/11 — Bulldogs complete sweep of archrival

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Bulldogs complete sweep of archrival

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 14, 2011 1:49 PM

PRINCETON -- Princeton's eight seniors played a superb floor game, protected their court and put the finishing touches on a season-long goal Thursday evening.

Setter Linda Smith handed out 37 assists and senior Nicole Melvin pounded out a match-high 14 kills for the Bulldogs, who captured the Carolina 1-A Conference volleyball championship outright with a 25-27, 25-16, 25-16, 24-26, 15-9 victory. Princeton claimed its first league crown since 2009 and ninth overall in program history.

The Dogs logged a perfect worksheet (10-0) in conference play and seized the No. 1 seed for next week's league tournament, which begins Monday. They will play host to a semifinal-round game Tuesday.

Rosewood secured the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

"We finished the match," said Princeton interim head coach Paige Renfrow. "The intensity we had tonight ... all the fans were into it. I told them in timeouts that those fans are with you, you've got to pick it back up and the fans will pick you up with them.

"It was just unreal."

Princeton (16-2 overall) missed a chance to close out Rosewood (15-6) in the fourth set. Senior Ashleigh Mayes served back-to-back aces to give the Dogs four match points at 24-20, but the Eagles answered with a remarkable run.

Mayes' service error gave Rosewood a sideout at 24-21. Kerri Jo Gurley served an ace and Crystal Allen executed perfect back-to-back solo blocks to forge a 24-24 deadlock.

Laura Vinson's kill off Megann Tyndall's assist and a passing error gave the Eagles a 26-24 win, which forced the decisive fifth set.

"We let it slip away," said Renfrow. "And honestly I'm really not sure how it slipped away. I don't know what the mistakes were. I know we had a shanked pass off the serve, was just fluke things that we just could not bounce back and overcome."

The Bulldogs cruised ahead 4-1 in the fifth set, but the Eagles rallied for a 7-5 advantage. Ellen Morgan's solo block ignited the run that included a Vinson kill and a solo block from Anna Ingram.

Princeton tied the set at 7-7 on an unforced error during part of a back-breaking 8-0 run. Middle hitter Savanna Massengill posted three of her 12 kills to help finish the match.

"We usually don't do good under pressure and our setter (Smith) says she doesn't like to be in that predicament, but we're excited because it's a big break for us," said Melvin. "We usually crumble when it comes to that time."

Rosewood couldn't overcome 10 costly errors in the final set, and was denied a chance to claim its third consecutive regular-season championship.

"We got a little complacent in the fifth game and started pushing the ball," said Eagles head coach Jennifer Cochran. "It could have gone either way in the fifth game, but I think if we just hit the ball instead of trying to play it safe we would have won the game.

"We could have folded in the fourth set and give it to them. All eight of their seniors really made a big difference in the game ... a good corps of people who rotate in and play well together."

Amber Hill added 10 kills for the Dogs, who had 48 kills as a team.

Ingram (11 kills), Vinson (nine kills) and Morgan (six kills) paced the Eagles' offense. Tyndall, Rachyle McAlduff and Stephanie Hall combined for 27 assists on 38 team kills.

Princeton had eight blocks, while Rosewood had seven.