10/20/11 — Princeton-N. Duplin volleyball

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Princeton-N. Duplin volleyball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 20, 2011 1:49 PM

PRINCETON -- Defense has been the cornerstone to Princeton's success on the volleyball court all season.

Wednesday evening was no exception.

Outside hitter Amber Hill delivered a 13-kill performance and the Bulldogs grabbed the "double-double" with a 25-14, 20-25, 25-12, 20-25, 15-11 victory over North Duplin in the Carolina 1-A Conference tournament final Wednesday evening.

The regular-season champion, Princeton (18-2 overall) begins the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs at home Saturday against East Carteret, which finished fourth in the highly-competiti ve Coastal Plains Conference.

North Duplin (15-8) travels to Lakewood.

Game times have not been announced for either match.

The Bulldogs relied on their shank-pass drill to save them on numerous occasions against the third-seeded Rebels. Hardly a ball dropped on either side of the court as each team dug up hard-hit shots and blanketed the floor well on soft-speed kill attempts.

The teams combined for more than 80 digs in the five-set, two-hour affair that left vocal fans on the edge of their seats.

"There were a lot of things that we followed off the shanked pass that we got back in, and that's what we've been working on all season," said Princeton head coach Paige Renfrow. "We were hitting the lights out of it and they were digging everything. Our defense was covering their hits just as well."

Princeton prevailed in two of the first three sets, but North Duplin refused to go away. Terra Ammons recorded two of her match-high five solo blocks and Skylar McCarty delivered two kills during an early 6-2 run.

Alonna Pate's back-to-back kills pushed the advantage to 10-3 and the Bulldogs could never get back into their offensive system. Danielle Hinrichs slammed a kill off Hannah Brock's assist.

North Duplin struggled to close out the set, however. Princeton fended off seven set points before Pate's off-speed shot clinched the set, 25-20.

Renfrow delivered a simple message before the final set.

"She said we need to get on top at the beginning and don't fall short, give it that little extra umph," said Bulldogs setter Linda Smith.

The teams staged a see-saw battle early and a Princeton service error knotted the score at 6-6. The Dogs forged ahead 10-7 and 12-9, only to see the Rebels pull to within one point each time.

Hill's monster kill from the left side, a hitting error and a match-clinching kill from Hill capped Princeton's sweep of the regular-season and conference tournament crowns.

"We've set small goals and we've just tried to accomplish them every time we've gone up (our list)," said Smith, who handed out 35 assists. "Our first goal was to be undefeated conference champions and we got that. Our second goal was to be conference tournament champions and we had the drive to do that.

"North Duplin was a tough opponent, but we pulled it together."

Middle hitters Nicole Melvin and Savanna Massengill posted 11 hits apiece, and combined for four blocks. The Dogs hit .222 for the match and owned a 47-39 edge in team kills.

Brock passed out 32 assists among five hitters for the Rebels. McCarty finished with 13 kill, while Hinrichs contributed 10 and Ammons knocked down eight. North Duplin hit .127 for the match.

"We played our hearts out," said North Duplin head coach Kelly Brown. "They played just as hard and we played just as hard. I told my team the whole time this could have gone either way, and they just happened to come out on top."