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Prep volleyball: Cougars fall in SPC tournament final

By Mike London

mike.london@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Third-seeded Carson’s bid to win the SPC volleyball tournament ended the way matches have ended for Cox Mill’s opponents all season — with a flurry of kills by Taylor Rowland and Kennedy Stocker.

Cox Mill is 25-0 for a reason, and the Chargers beat Carson 25-13, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21 in South Rowan’s gym on Wednesday night.

Rowland, a 6-foot-2 freshman outside hitter, was the difference-maker. She blasted 21 kills, most of them indefensible.

“They have a pretty big advantage on us vertically,” Carson’s 5-foot-9 junior outside hitter Jordan Osborne said. “And there were a few times today that luck wasn’t in our favor.”

Cox Mill beat Carson 3-1 for the third time this season. The Chargers won at Carson on Sept. 11 and at Cox Mill in the regular-season finale.

“I do feel like we’ve gotten closer each time,” Osborne said. “We dug deep today, put our hearts into it. It’s always fun to play against a good team.”

The first set wasn’t fun for the Cougars. Carson looked overmatched. Rowland had six kills, while Lauren Phillips, another tall freshman, dominated the middle. Carson’s animated coach Kelan Rogers sat quietly, and the Cougars took their medicine.

Carson regrouped for the second set, and Rogers stood sternly with arms folded. The Cougars (17-9) got fired up, got two aces from Makenna Pate and jumped out to a 15-7 lead. But Carson couldn’t hang on. Both coaches pointed at Cox Mill’s second-set comeback as the key to the match.

“That first set they just handed it to us,” Rogers said. “But that second set was ours to win. I’d say Cox Mill won the first one, and then we lost the second one.”

Carson was state runner-up in 2012 and 2013, and the Cougars were determined not to go down quietly.

“I thought that after that first set we scrapped about as hard as we could,” junior setter Morgan Hester said. “But you win some and you lose some, and we were playing against a really good team. They didn’t just have good hitters. They played good defense.”

Cox Mill coach Michelle Phillips said her team didn’t get flustered when it got way down in the second set mostly because of good practice habits.

“That situation is something we practice a lot,” she said. “We’ve put the girls in the situation where they’ve got to be strong mentally and make a comeback from a deficit. Both teams were playing well today, but we were able to make that big comeback.”

Carson played an inspired third set and got four kills from Osborne, aces from Holly Beaver and Pate, blocks from Hester and Lindsay Elmore and kills from McKenna Moose and Kaytee Leonguerrero. Elena Turnbull, Carson’s 5-foot-8 sophomore middle hitter, had the set-clinching kill.

Carson continued the fight in the fourth set, and it was 16-all after an Osborne kill. Cox Mill, however, pulled away from there. Cox Mill has a virtually automatic hitter in Rowland, and the Cougars don’t have anyone like that.

“We competed, but we just made too many mistakes,” Rogers said. “We had way too many unforced errors to beat a good team.”

Osborne led the Cougars with 13 kills, while Turnbull contributed eight.

Carson swept South Rowan in a semifinal on Wednesday, while Cox Mill swept Hickory Ridge.

Carson will play in the first round of the 3A state playoffs on Saturday.

Mike London: 704-797-4259; twitter.com/mikelondonpost3

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