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NEW PORT RICHEY — The much-anticipated rematch between River Ridge and Wiregrass Ranch featuring the top goal scorers on the North Suncoast promised to deliver plenty of offensive firepower.
River Ridge’s Jenny Karl and Wiregrass Ranch’s A.J. Blount combined for six goals Nov. 12 as the Bulls outlasted the Royal Knights 5-4.
The duo picked up where they left off, but it was a pair of goals from River Ridge’s Jessica Tata that proved to be the difference in a 6-4 Royal Knights victory Wednesday.
With River Ridge (11-2) clinging to a 3-2 lead after halftime, Tata found herself on a breakaway with only Wiregrass Ranch goalkeeper Dayton Wetherby (seven saves) to beat. Tata lifted a shot over an outstretched Wetherby that bounced into the net for a 4-2 advantage.
Three minutes later, Tata again dribbled the ball down the right side on a breakaway and unleashed a perfectly placed shot at the far post that gave the Royal Knights their second three-goal lead.
“I felt a goal coming,” Tata said. “It was just a matter of time. … I think teams worry so much about Jenny that they’re not expecting much out of me. I kind of use that to my advantage.”
Karl again showed why she’s considered one of the area’s most dangerous players with three goals in the first half. She scored 10 minutes into the game after a saved shot from Kendra Secrest then three minutes later, she one-timed Secrest’s accurate cross into the back of the net for a two-goal lead.
Karl made it 3-0 before the first water break with a deadly shot toward the far post from distance.
Wiregrass Ranch (10-2-2) fought back valiantly. Blount got her first goal in the 23rd minute after rebounding Berlin Waters’ saved shot.
Julissa Lawrence pulled the Bulls to within a goal just before the break.
“I think we kind of relaxed too much when we got those three goals,” Karl said.
Down 5-2, Wiregrass Ranch again made a push to try to tie. Waters scored with 23 minutes left to make the score 5-3, and Blount added a goal in the 74th minute.
Karl added a late insurance goal — her fourth goal of the game — to seal it.
“Unfortunately, I think we woke up a little too late,” Wiregrass Ranch coach Erin Dodd said. “We didn’t play our best at the beginning of the game. We recovered from it as much as we could, it just wasn’t enough.”