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Unbeaten River Ridge hitting on all cylinders

River Ridge junior Leah Mitchell returns a shot against Wesley Chapel. She led the Knights with eight aces and eight kills.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

River Ridge junior Leah Mitchell returns a shot against Wesley Chapel. She led the Knights with eight aces and eight kills.

WESLEY CHAPEL — River Ridge made quick work of another North Suncoast opponent.

Three games was all it took Tuesday for the Royal Knights to knock off Wesley Chapel for its sixth win in as many games. River Ridge won 25-19, 25-11, 25-19.

Still searching for a true challenge, the Royal Knights should get one with rival Hudson on Thursday.

"We've got the momentum but we haven't had that great challenge yet," River Ridge coach Heidi Castelamare said. "I see sometimes complacency on the court and not diving for the ball that we need to. That worries me, we settle for things we shouldn't settle for."

At this point, River Ridge looks unbeatable. In fact, it seems the only way the Royal Knights (6-0) would lose would be because of the unforced errors that kept the Wildcats (2-4) close in Game 1.

"We had six missed serves, three missed hits and three net calls," Castelamare said of that first game. "That's 11 points right there we gave them. Those are our errors, not points they earned."

River Ridge cycled through all 11 varsity players by game's end. In all but one match this season, the Royal Knights have used every player available.

The closest River Ridge has come to losing a game was in Game 3 of the opener against Land O'Lakes. By that point, the Royal Knights already had dug deep into their bench.

Castelamare said it's rare to rotate inexperienced players so much this early in the season.

"I don't take all six starters out and bring six new players in," Castelamare said. "I leave a core of four usually that can bring the other girls up to their par."

The Royal Knights got the usual dominant performances. Junior Leah Mitchell led the way with eight aces and eight kills. And senior Alexandra Laton had 13 kills.

Wesley Chapel managed to tie Game 1 twice thanks to some fiery hits from Jeileen Mas. But River Ridge had too many weapons.

Wesley Chapel took its only lead of the night in Game 2 climbing ahead 2-1. The Royal Knights tied it at 2 followed by some strong serves by River Ridge senior Irene Townsend, who gave her team a 10-3 lead before taking a 14-point victory then cruising in Game 3.

"If we stay together and work as hard as we've been working and we keep pushing, we can make it to states," senior Alexandra Laton said. "That's definitely our goal."

Berkeley Prep downs rival Tampa Prep

TAMPA — With Tampa Prep playing sharp, particularly at the net, and momentum squarely in the Terrapins' corner late in the third game against Berkeley Prep, Buccaneers coach Randy Dagostino knew something had to be done. The serve, he figured, was a good place to begin.

"We started serving to different areas of the court to take (Tampa Prep middle blocker) Dana Malinowski out of the match," Dagostino said.

It worked.

As the Bucs mixed things up, Tampa Prep's serve receive went south, which disrupted the Terps' offensive continuity and limited Malinowski's touches. Berkeley Prep not only rallied to take Game 3, but poured it on down the stretch to defeat its archrival 25-12, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17.

Staff writer Keith Niebuhr contributed to this report.

Unbeaten River Ridge hitting on all cylinders 09/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 11:11pm]
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