East 1A finals: Phoenix rises past Bulldogs
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on October 30, 2013 1:48 PM
PRINCETON -- Princeton was one set away from the state finals and the Dog House was rocking.
Slowly and painfully that all changed.
Raleigh Charter rallied to win the final two sets in a 19-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 15-3 victory on Tuesday evening in the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A eastern regional final.
The Phoenix (21-3 overall) defeated the Bulldogs in the eastern finals for the second consecutive season. Princeton (27-2) had won its previous 25 matches.
"I think once they get over the initial (pain) of we lost in five sets I think that they will realize we had an awesome season," Bulldogs' head coach Paige Renfrow said. "An almost flawless season. We had two losses and one of our losses was in the fifth round of the state playoffs. Not many teams can say that."
Princeton rode the hot start of senior hitter Savanna Massengill in the first set. Massengill contributed four kills as the Bulldogs found holes in the Raleigh Charter defense.
Phoenix hitter Joanna Powers got going in set two with seven of her match-high 25 kills. Princeton struggled at times with Raleigh Charter's slide kill attack and Grace Irvin provided 13 kills of her own.
"(Powers) was an awesome hitter," Renfrow said. "(Irvin) was an awesome hitter. If we took (Powers) out of her game we capitalized. We did that for the most part. In the fifth set when we got behind, we just couldn't quite that rhythm back on our side."
The Bulldogs trailed 20-18 late in set three before Kasey Edwards began to assert herself at the net. Edwards delivered three kills off assists from Charlie Cox and an off-speed hit to help Princeton claim a 2-1 advantage.
With music blaring and the Bulldog faithful cheering in approval, Princeton was a set away from its first ever trip to the state finals.
The Phoenix were far from done.
Unforced errors at pivotal moments haunted the Bulldogs, who led 15-13 midway through set four. Powers and Irvin each pounded out a pair of kills and Raleigh Charter's defense seemed to track down everything the Bulldogs sent over the net.
"The fourth set was a big opportunity for us to step up and take that win and we fell short," Renfrow said. "It's a tough loss two years in a row. But, our girls gave everything they had and they played with their heart and determination and desire. To make it five sets was awesome."
Raleigh Charter dictated the decisive fifth set as Powers pounded out four more kills and added two off-speed hits. Princeton struggled to find its rhythm offensively and saw its season come to an end in excruciating fashion.
The loss marked the final match in a Bulldogs' uniform for seniors Massengill, Tori Paul and Jasmine Bombard. Massengill tallied a team-high 13 kills. Edwards had nine kills and Paul supplied four kills.
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