The Princeton volleyball team was rarely challenged this regular season as the Bulldogs went undefeated in Carolina Conference play and lost just one match in 23 outings.
When the Bulldogs were challenged at home Thursday in the third round of the state 1A playoffs and dropped the second set to visiting Camden County (25-4), Princeton responded with a vengeance.
Savanna Massengill and Tori Paul out-dueled the Bruins’ Brynn Fleury and Chasante Jones at the net and, with the supremacy at the point of attack in hand, the Bulldogs took the final two sets for a four-set (25-19, 17-25, 25-12, 25-19) win.
“Savannah really stepped it up in that third game and it was like she said ‘we are not losing so you better put your heart on the floor,’” Princeton coach Paige Renfrow said, citing Massengill’s ability to match Camden’s Jones strike for strike as being vitally important. “Savannah really did step it up and made some great plays against (Jones).”
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Massengill posted four of her seven blocks in the third game against the hard-hitting junior and Taylor Carroll, Charley Cox and Hailey Wood began digging out many of Fleury’s dump shots and tips that had helped the Bruins even the match with a relatively easy second set triumph.
“We started watching (Fleury’s) dumps right over our middles,” said Renfrow. “That’s one thing we hadn’t seen all season so that was new for us. We picked it up and we adjusted very well. I am very pleased with the way they played.”
In the pivotal third set, the Bulldogs (25-1) won the first six points and never looked back. To go with Massengill’s blocks, Paul recorded six kills to help Princeton regain control of the match.
Jasmine Bombard and Kasey Edwards contributed greatly to the attack in the match’s final set to provide Cox (47 assists) even more options in the passing game and Edwards came through with kills on the final two points to move Princeton to the fourth round.
Paul finished with 17 kills while Massengill had 15.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to play Perquimans, the No. 1 seed from the Coastal 10 Conference, on Saturday afternoon. Princeton defeated Manteo, the Coastal 10’s No. 4 seed in the opening round and then Carolina Conference opponent Lakewood in the second round before ousting the Bruins, the Coastal 10’s No. 2 seed in the third round.
Cox provided Princeton with the spark in the opening set as the junior setter made three spectacular diving plays to dig balls up that were destined to hit the floor and propelled the Bulldogs to a 15-3 run that saw Princeton through to the opening set victory.
“We want to get back to the point last year where we lost in the fifth round and get past the fifth round; that’s our motivation,” said an exuberant Cox. “We really do play well as a team and I’m just so excited that we are going to the next round.”
Jones led Camden with 15 kills while Fleury, who entered the contest the Bruins’ leader in assists, digs, kills and service aces, finished the match with 12 assists, 10 digs, eight kills and seven tips.