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HUDSON — After Ridgewood swept Anclote in Wednesday’s Class 5A, District 6 semifinal, the Rams gathered in a circle and yelled the word they hadn’t savored since 2009.
Second-seeded Ridgewood is heading back to the postseason after knocking off the pesky Sharks, 25-18, 25-19, 25-22. The Rams will be joined by a playoff rookie, top seed Fivay, after the Falcons recovered from a sluggish start to sweep Zephyrhills 25-23, 25-17, 25-15.
“The girls just played great,” Ridgewood coach Amber Starkey said. “I’m so happy for them.”
The Rams (20-6) seized control of the match with two big runs. Trailing 16-10 in the first game, Ridgewood rattled off the next 11 points, thanks to three aces from Ali Sigismondi and two of Mary Kujak’s team-high 10 kills.
Ridgewood fell behind 10-8 in the second before rallying once more with a 6-0 run behind two kills from freshman Aubree Sigismondi. The Rams never trailed again.
“We just took advantage of their mistakes,” Starkey said.
Taylor Vanicek had 19 digs to help Ridgewood’s defense, and Lauren Gonzalez (17 assists) and Victoria Schaefer (14 assists) were the team’s top setters. Mia Lockhart led the Sharks (17-10) with eight kills.
Fivay (21-5) also needed some late rallies to secure the school’s first trip to the region tournament with a win over the fourth-seeded Bulldogs.
The Falcons fell behind early and trailed 19-18 in the first game before taking advantage of two costly Zephyrhills errors and ending the game with one of Ashliegh Nemetz’s six aces.
“We started out way slower tonight,” Falcons coach Linda McQuade said.
But once Fivay got going, it couldn’t be stopped. Two of Alli Hudson’s team-high 10 kills fueled a momentum-stealing 10-0 run in the second set, and two more Nemetz aces sparked a 6-0 run that put the match out of reach.
Toni Imbimbo starred for the Falcons with nine kills, 20 digs and three aces, while Nemetz added seven kills. Taylor LaFavre’s six kills helped keep Zephyrhills in the match, and Jessica Geiger added four kills in her team’s defeat.
The district finalists split their two regular-season meetings. Fivay and Ridgewood both earned 3-1 victories, and both teams won 173 points in the matchups.
6A-10: Mitchell gets River Ridge's best
TRINITY — Tarpon Springs and Mitchell, as expected, will play for the Class 6A-10 title, but one team had to work much harder to get there.
Host Mitchell withstood a valiant comeback Wednesday by River Ridge, which trailed 2-0 and faced five match points before forcing a fifth game. Mitchell won 25-12, 26-24, 24-26, 25-27, 15-7 in a semifinal that lasted two hours, 20 minutes.
“We were shocked they came back like that,” said Mitchell senior Jessika Hester, who took control in the fifth with four kills. “But our attitude changed going into the last game, we knew we could still win it. And then we just played like we usually do.”
River Ridge (9-14) led 24-23 in the second before Mitchell closed with a big block from Lyndsey Lane (15 kills), then back-to-back kills from Daniele Green and Kelly Cave.
Mitchell (18-5) was ahead 15-7 in the third game and 19-13 in the fourth. On a night where each side made its share of mistakes, the endings of those games were nothing but tremendous effort and drama by both teams.
Wrapped by a flawless fifth game of setting, Mitchell’s Shayna Filippelli finished with 27 assists.
The Royal Knights got a strong showing from many, but standing out were senior Sarah Olin and 5-foot-10 junior Morgan Tolle, who had six blocks and was the key performer in the fourth game.
“I think we wanted it more,” Olin said. “If we had won, tomorrow against Tarpon … there’s no way we’re not district champs.”
Tarpon Springs and its go-to senior, 6-2 Ashlyn MacGregor and her 14 saves against Sunlake, would probably argue that point. The Spongers were far from spectacular but got it rolling around the midpoint of a 25-21, 25-10, 25-11 victory.
The Seahawks (8-19) put a brief scare into the Spongers, coming from 20-15 down to lead 21-20. But Sunlake committed five straight errors.
“They had nothing to lose and they outscrapped us in the first game,” said Tarpon coach Patrick Sneed. “But once Ash got going it sparked us, and everything feeds through her.”
Co-captain Kelsi Collins had 11 assists and 13 digs for the top-seeded Spongers (21-3).
Sisters Lauren and Sarah Sprague paced Sunlake.
6A-6: Springstead, Central bounced in semis
LECANTO — For the first time since 1998, Hernando County won’t be represented in the state playoffs after Springstead and Central fell in the Class 6A, District 6 semifinals.
The Eagles lost in three games to host Lecanto, 25-19, 25-10, 25-16.
It was the fourth time Springstead (9-6) had played the Panthers (16-5) this season, all losses, but first-year coach Noemi Rivera was optimistic despite her team’s elimination.
“I thought we played well and were ready, but in some situations we just didn’t capitalize when we needed to,” Rivera said. “(The girls) are very excited to work during the offseason and with most of them returning, we have a lot of potential.”
Springstead senior Marisa Welch was the lone player to return from last year’s district title team. Nine of the 11 roster spots are currently filled by underclassmen.
In the early game, top-seeded West Port dispatched Central 16-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-14.
After winning its play-in game Tuesday, the Bears (4-10) looked confident at the start, dominating the first game and playing the Wolf Pack (17-4) tough in the second. However, when the momentum shifted, there was no turning back for West Port.
Central overcame much turmoil this season with an early-season coaching change to reach the semifinals, but the program loses only four seniors and brings back most of its key players, including kills leader Samantha Bishop, a junior.
Correspondents Darek Sharp and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.