SMITHFIELD — Before each season, Princeton volleyball coach Paige Renfrow sets the bar high for her team with a goal of going further in the state playoffs than they did the year before.
Seeing that the Bulldogs rode a 16-game win streak all the way into the eastern regional championship before being ousted by Raleigh Charter a season ago, that means an appearance in the state championship match is where the bar rests this time around.
Princeton took another step toward its ultimate goal Thursday night as the Bulldogs won their 30th consecutive conference Carolina 1A match with a 3-0 (25-7, 25-8, 25-6) victory over conference newcomer Neuse Charter.
“I feel like I always set the goals high for my girls and don’t expect anything less than that,” said Renfrow. “Our final goal is to beat what we did last year and last year we got to the fifth round so we can only make it to states this year.
“The girls, they strive for that, they push for that, they want that goal.”
One of the main reasons Renfrow and the rest of the Bulldogs (10-1 overall, 6-0 in conference) feel that they have what it takes to play in the final match of the season was on full display Thursday night: its depth.
Seven different players earned kills for Princeton and six different players registered aces from the service line while the most impressive player of the night may have been jayvee call-up Beth Braswell who totaled seven aces for the match.
“Our bench is strong,” beamed Renfrow, who said that there seems to be a different player who steps up each night. “I feel comfortable putting in players off of the bench. I feel that we have a strong 10 that can play wherever I put them.”
Middle hitter Savanna Massengill and outside hitter Taylor Carroll each had six kills to lead the Bulldogs while Hailey Wood added five.
Kasey Edwards and Tori Paul have been huge contributors to the Princeton attack so far while senior Jasmine Bombard and junior Jaclyn Farrior have stepped up this season and provided a consistent force on the right side.
Defensive specialist Kelsey Peedin and libero Jenna Woodard have been providing a reliable defensive presence in the back row and setter Charley Cox has become a stronger two-way player.
Princeton, outside of a close 3-2 tilt against rival Rosewood, has dominated in conference play so far, winning each of the 15 games in its five other conference matches.
“For the past two years we’ve been undefeated in the conference,” Renfrow said. “But there will be plenty of improvement and we can’t take any of the teams lightly the second time around.”
As for Renfrow’s expectations for the season, she likes what she sees thus far.
“I have confidence that we can go just as far as we did last year if we keep working hard and pushing every day in practice,” said Renfrow. “We’re just building and building and getting stronger.”