Archrivals Rosewood, Princeton to meet in Carolina 1A tourney final
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 16, 2013 1:48 PM
NEWTON GROVE -- Carolina 1-A volleyball archrivals Princeton and Rosewood shared a common thread during their respective semifinal-round matches Tuesday evening.
Each played with poise at the right time.
The top-seeded Bulldogs tossed aside uncharacteristic first-set mistakes and turned back upset-minded Spring Creek 28-26, 25-15, 25-13 inside the Hobbton High School gym. The second-seeded Eagles survived minor lulls and knocked off third-seeded Lakewood 25-23, 25-18, 25-19.
Princeton (21-1 overall) and Rosewood (21-2) battle for the tournament title today at 7 p.m. at Hobbton. The Bulldogs have won seven straight in the series, and hold a 14-10 edge overall since 2004.
Spring Creek (14-6) and Lakewood (15-8) square off at 5 p.m. to determine the league's No. 3 and 4 seeds for the state playoffs after the teams tied for third during regular-season play.
"Tomorrow is going to be whoever wants it (more)," Eagles head coach Jennifer Cochran said of the rematch with Princeton. "I still think we're playing too tense because we want it so bad."
The Bulldogs and Eagles had to avoid semifinal pitfalls.
Olivia Martinez and Rachel McCullom combined for 14 first-set kills as the Gators put the sparse crowd on "upset alert" against the Bulldogs. McCullom kills off of Sarah Ford assists gave Spring Creek set point at 25-24 and 26-25, but Princeton answered with kills from Taylor Carroll and Savannah Massengill.
Tori Paul's kill off of a solo block gave the Bulldogs set one.
"I honestly think that (losing the first set) would have pushed our girls a little bit harder because they would have realized 'dag-gone, we're got to pick ourselves up, there's no way that this can take place'," PHS head coach Paige Renfrow said. "When they realized they were on the verge of losing, our girls stepped up and finished it off."
Princeton neutralized Martinez and McCullom in the second and third sets. The Bulldogs utilized every spot on the court to disrupt the Gators' offense, which never rediscovered its late first-set rhythm.
Spring Creek couldn't get consistent passing from off-speed hits and push balls to the deep corners. The Gators' mental game broke down once they fell out of their offensive system.
"You've got to be tougher (and) play one serve at a time," SC head coach Deanna Morris said. "They know the game, where to be (on the court) and what to do, but it's that confidence level that needs to get higher. You've got to push it."
McCullom and Martinez posted 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Ford dished out 25 assists. Middle hitter Savannah Massengill led three Princeton players in double digits with 18 kills. Paul had 11, while Carroll had 10.
Charley Cox handed out 35 assists.
"We came back and played well in the second and third sets," Renfrow said.
Rosewood and Lakewood combined for 14 ties and 10 lead changes in their opening set. Emily Brock served an ace to the give the Eagles their biggest lead, 24-21, only to see the Leopards pull to within 24-23.
Three defensive saves led to a Lakewood hitting error and allowed Rosewood to close out set one.
Consecutive blocks from Lexi Mercer helped the Eagles build a commanding 19-10 advantage in the second set. The Leopards, behind outside hitter Rashyda Parker (15 kills), climbed to within 19-15.
Morgan's kill off Hayley Mercer's assist polished off the set.
"They stayed calm today," Cochran said. "Against Princeton, when we got into those lulls, we kept lulling. Tonight, I felt like they stepped up and said 'OK, I'm going to be the one that's going to change this and stop the run."
Mercer, who had 11 kills and six solo blocks, controlled the net in the third set. Ciera Satterfield provided key kills off the bench and outside hitter Callie Thornton supplied crucial kills each time the Leopards appeared to gain momentum.
Morgan capped the set and match with an off-speed shot that deflected off of Parker and dropped to the court. Morgan finished with 11 kills. Hayley Mercer and Anna Ingram passed out 13 and nine assists, respectively.
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