PRINCETON — Raleigh Charter thought its best chance of reaching the state 1A Volleyball Championship game came last season when the Phoenix fell in the third round to North Carolina School of Science and Math.
Fortunately for the Phoenix, this years five seniors reached their goal when Raleigh Charter advanced with a 3-0 victory against Princeton (25-22, 25-23 and 25-19) in the Eastern Regional Championship game. The Phoenix will play Hendersonville on Saturday at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh for the title.
For them, they thought that last year was their year to go to state. But for those kids, they thought this was our last chance and we have to do it, Raleigh Charter coach Mary Wands said of her seniors. They wanted it and they got everybody to buy into the whole everybody having to work hard thing.
The battle-tested Phoenix (22-5), which survived a pair of five-set matches including one over Carolina 12 Conference rivals NCSSM to reach the regional championship came up big when needed to pull out all three closely contested sets.
Behind the superb setting of senior Abby Keller, a solid all-around service game and a quick tempo, Raleigh Charter ended the season and 16-game winning streak of the Bulldogs, the No. 1 seed out of the Carolina 1A Conference.
Down 19-18 in the first set, the Phoenix finished it off on a 7-3 run, culminating on a set-winning tip from Keller at the net.
The Bulldogs, who regularly had been able to reel off several points at a time during their 16-game winning streak, managed to do so just once all night when a 9-1 run tied the second set at 12.
But Raleigh Charter responded with a 7-1 run of its own to keep the Bulldogs at bay. The Phoenix took a 2-0 lead when Keller set up Joanna Powers for one of her 15 kills.
Keller ended her evening with 31 assists for the Phoenix.
We fought for everything; we just could not get on a consistent run where we have in the past, Princeton coach Paige Renfrow said. Raleigh Charter took us out of our game just because it was so fast.
Savanna Massengill led Princeton with six kills, while Kasey Edwards and Amber Hill added five each.