Bulldogs heed coach's advice, pull out 5-set affair
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on August 30, 2013 1:57 PM
The latest installment in the storied Rosewood-Princeton volleyball rivalry ended in classic fashion yet again Thursday evening.
Senior middle hitter Savanna Massengill provided a team-high 15 kills and the Bulldogs recovered from a middle-match lull to defeat the Eagles 25-22, 24-26, 18-25, 25-15, 15-13 in Carolina 1-A Conference play.
Princeton claimed its 26th consecutive victory against league opposition.
"It's hard to have this tough game right at the beginning when you look forward to it at the end (of the season), but it's good for us to go ahead and see this caliber of play," third-year PHS head coach Paige Renfrow said. "They pushed, they fought and they gave everything they had there (in the fifth set). They're not taking anything home (tonight), they left it all right here (on the court).
"I have to tell you ... Rosewood ... they're a spot-on team."
Senior Ellen Morgan cranked out a career- and season-high 28 kills for the Eagles, who endured their first defeat in six outings. Anna Ingram, who was converted to a setter in the preseason, distributed 37 assists in the exhaustive 2-hour affair.
"I just think we've got a lot of room to improve," RHS head coach Jennifer Cochran said. "I was pretty happy because we just put this team together six games ago. I knew they (Princeton) were going to be a good team."
Each team flourished in its respective offensive system early.
The Bulldogs (5-1 overall, 2-0 CC) posted 14 kills off of 13 assists from setter Charley Cox in set one. Cox finished with 39 assists on 48 team kills, including 12 from Tori Paul and eight from Kasey Edwards.
The Eagles followed suit in the second set behind Morgan (eight kills) and sophomore Lexi Mercer, who recorded a pair of solo blocks. Mercer finished with seven kills on the night.
Rosewood (5-1, 1-1) served aggressive and stretched Princeton's defense with shots down the line, cross court and just inside the 3-meter line during the third set. An emotional Morgan sparked a back-breaking 13-6 run that concluded on Emily Brock's ace.
A boisterous Eagle crowd roared its approval.
"Coach told us that we couldn't get our heads down, this is not the end," Massengill said. "She told us that we could play better than what we were playing (and) told us that we needed to cover more ... come out strong, play relaxed and play our game."
The Dogs' defense covered the floor like a blanket.
Morgan's hard-hit shots were dug up and Princeton's blockers began to get touches at the net. That allowed Massengill and her teammates to keep pressure on the Eagles' defense and capitalize on mistakes, which eventually led to the nail-biting fifth set.
Morgan's kill off of Mercer's assist pushed Rosewood in front, 6-2, in the fifth set. Princeton forged ties at 6-6, 8-8, 9-9 and 10-10 before taking an 11-10 lead on Massengill's kill that just clipped the line in front of the Eagles' bench.
Rosewood fought back again behind Morgan, who tooled a kill off of a block and dumped an off-speed shot over a double block to make it 13-13. The Dogs called timeout, and scored the final two points on Massengill's kill and a hitting error from the Eagles.
"I think they played a really, really good floor game," Cochran said. "They didn't freak out as much early as we did about out-of-system plays. As we got more aggressive, we scored points off of our serve.
"If we served it to the middle, they killed us every time. That's what we did the last two points."