NEWTON GROVE — Princeton’s volleyball team is one of the few in the state that didn’t really need a playoff style test before the real thing started Saturday, but the Bulldogs got one in the finals of the Carolina 1A Conference tournament against rival Rosewood.
It was another test – the 22nd of this season, and one played before a gym packed with enthused fans – that Princeton aced, rolling to a 25-20, 25-17, 25-16 victory to finish 17-0 against league foes this season.
Princeton carried a 22-1 mark into the 1A playoffs, which began Saturday. The Bulldogs advanced to the eastern regional championship match last season.
“We’ve strived all season to get better and better,” said Bulldogs coach Paige Renfrow. “I think our stamina has showed in matches as well. We were stronger as the match went on. We pushed through the tough points.”
Rosewood, (21-3) with all of its losses to Princeton, led midway in the first and second sets only to see the Bulldogs close out both sets.
Down 17-16 in the opening set, Princeton pulled even on a Kasey Edwards service ace, then went ahead on a Savanna Massengill block. Those points started a 9-3 Bulldog run to end the set.
In the second set, Princeton rode a string of points from Massengill and Tori Paul to jump out to a 20-12 lead it wouldn’t give up. As the match progressed, Rosewood’s chances for winners were harder to find as the Bulldogs’ defense – led by Jenna Woodard’s 10 digs – kept the court covered.
“Defensively, I felt like we covered everything that we could, except for the good hits,” Renfrow said. “Sure, Rosewood was able to place some great hits in the corners. But if it was playable, we got to it.”
The Eagles led again midway of the third set, this time by four at 10-6, only to see strong service runs by Paul, Jasmine Bombard, Taylor Carroll and Edwards help Princeton rally for a 20-13 lead.
“One of our strong points all season has been our serving,” Renfrow said. “We’ve worked a lot on placing our serves. Going short, short, long, long, trying to throw the other team off with how they defend our serves.”
Massengill finished with 14 kills, while Bombard and Paul had five kills each. Charley Cox piled up 36 assists.
“We tried to play tougher, bigger teams early and I think that helped us through the season,” Renfrow said. “Then we saw good competition from Rosewood, Lakewood and Spring Creek in conference. I felt like those kind of matches kept us on our toes.”
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