There’s no better time to play your best in high school volleyball than the last week of October. Princeton did just that Saturday night, Oct. 26, rolling by Perquimans – a 22-4 team – to advance to the 1A Eastern regional championship match with a 25-15, 25-14, 25-20 victory.
The win gave the Bulldogs (26-1) a rematch with Raleigh Charter in this week’s state semifinal battle.
Princeton’s offense and defense were equally dominant against the Pirates on Saturday.
“I don’t know if we can play any better,” said Princeton coach Paige Renfrow. “We almost played flawlessly. Our defense was on all night and we executed on offense.”
Four Bulldogs finished with five or more kills in the match as first touch after first touch found the hands of junior setter Charley Cox who put the ball on the powerful hands of Princeton’s effective hitters.
Savanna Massengill led the Bulldogs with 10 kills and four blocks, while Taylor Carroll and Kasey Edwards added a half-dozen kills each.
Carroll, a sophomore outside hitter, had five of her kills in the first set.
“We were just playing as a team,” Carroll said. “Good passes lead to good sets, which set up good hits.”
It really was that simple for Princeton. Add in the Bulldogs’ always effective service game (they had four aces in each of the first two sets) and the Pirates were rarely a factor in the match.
Perquimans didn’t have a lead in the match until the third set and had only two strings of three or more points.
Renfrow said the Bulldogs spent Friday’s practice preparing for the types of shots they’d expect to see from the Pirates’ offense. It showed during the match as Perquimans totaled just 16 kills in the match, including only four in the second set.
“We were prepared for everything they showed us,” Carroll said. “We worked hard on covering shots up the line and the cross-court hits. I thought we played very good defense.”
Renfrow credited all of her team for their work in practice and in the match.
“Our bench players prepare us so well on practice days,” she said. “We’re used to the situations we expect to see every match because of them. … And Jasmine (Bombard) and Jaclyn (Farrior) stepped in and helped us tonight.”
The Bulldogs’ experience in the playoffs (they played their ninth playoff match in the last two seasons) showed Saturday night. Princeton was never rattled, even when the Pirates went up 10-6 in the third set and seemed to be getting their offense going.
Princeton broke Perquimans’ momentum with back-to-back winning tips by Edwards and Massengill, then took control of the set on a nine-point Carroll service run. Massengill had three kills during the run, which ended with an ace by Carroll, a sophomore, to put the Bulldogs up 19-11.
The Pirates gave one more push late in the third set, closing to 21-19 before a net violation gave the service back to Princeton. Tori Paul won the next point with a block for a 23-19 lead and Princeton’s trip back to the regional final was completed with the help of back-to-back kills by Edwards and Cox to finish the match.