Princeton eliminates perennial power
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 28, 2012 1:50 AM
PRINCETON -- Princeton junior Tori Paul and her volleyball teammates never forgot last year's memory of falling in the eastern regional semifinals on their home court.
One year later, they're one step further.
Paul hammered out 11 kills and the Bulldogs stunned perennial powerhouse Pender 21-25, 25-21, 25-12, 25-18 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Princeton (17-6 overall) punched its ticket to the eastern regional championship for the first time since 2001, and will entertain either Raleigh Charter or Riverside on Tuesday.
"Whoo!" Paul exclaimed as she threw her hands in the air.
"We've talked all season about making it to regionals."
The Bulldogs and the Patriots (23-5) each claimed straight-set sweeps over their respective opponents during the first three rounds of the playoffs.
Pender made it 10 sets in a row against Princeton.
Two overpass kills by 6-foot-8 middle hitter Brianna Pittman, Cassidy Miller's service ace and three unforced errors gave the Patriots a 6-0 advantage in the opening set.
The Bulldogs pulled to within 9-8, but could get no closer. Pittman continued to dominate at the net, while outside hitter Alyssa Carter and back-row specialist KB Hansley also pressured the defense with attacks to different areas of the court.
"All of the first set were our mistakes ... missed serves, back-row attacks in the net, free balls that we were passing out," Princeton head coach Paige Renfrow said. "They eliminated those mistakes in the last three sets. They knew what they had to do to win the game."
Princeton stretched its defense to handle Carter and Hansley, and Renfrow started sophomore Charley Cox at setter in the second set. The Bulldogs stayed in their offensive system and assumed the role of aggressor after playing on their heels defensively.
The teams battled through two ties and four lead changes in the second set. Princeton erased a seven-point deficit and forged a 13-13 deadlock on the second of three consecutive service aces by Taylor Carroll.
Carroll's third ace and Amber Hill's kill off of a Cox assist gave the Bulldogs a 15-13 advantage they would never relinquish. Princeton stretched the lead with Hill at the service line and capped the set on a net violation by Pender.
The Bulldogs reeled off seven of the first nine points in the third set. The Patriots, who won consecutive state titles in 2009 and 2010, pulled to within 7-6 on Carter's kill to the back corner. They wouldn't threaten again.
Paul delivered five kills during a back-breaking 10-3 run.
"Number eight (Pittman), she was big so we took advantage when she wasn't on the court," a smiling Paul said. "Then we got it back."
Carroll's ace ended the third set.
Kasey Edwards' solo block created a 16-16 tie in the final set. Two consecutive unforced errors by Pender gave Princeton yet another lead it wouldn't squander. Paul and Edwards delivered key kills to make it 24-18, and Pender surrendered match point on an attack error.
Paul cranked out 15 kills for the Bulldogs, who extended their win streak to 16. Cox and Lauren Woodard combined for 31 assists. Savanna Massengill supplied five kills and five blocks.
"I've talked to them about our goals every day and we've hit our goals, are peaking at the right time," Renfrow said.
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