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Bucs surprise Gators; Rams advance

Naming favorites is no easy task in this district. Prior to the start of the Class 5A, District 8 tournament, Ridgewood coach Marlyn Bavetta said she liked Land O'Lakes.

Tuesday night, after the Gators were beaten in the tournament's first round, Bavetta picked another team.

Her own.

The third-seeded Rams (11-13) thumped Springstead 15-8, 15-5 at the Jim Valentine Athletic Complex to move into tonight's semifinals, where they will meet second-seeded Tarpon Springs.

In the other semifinal, top-seeded River Ridge will play Gulf, a surprising 15-11, 15-10 winner over the Gators.

The Gators played without senior setter Tracy Fowler, who broke a finger this weekend at a tournament in Port Charlotte. Without her, the Gators played a flat match and never were able to seize control.

The Bucs (6-12) got a steady team effort and rode strong serving in their win. Leading 7-5 in the first game, Buc sophomore Laura O'Brien served seven straight points to put Gulf ahead 14-5.

In the second game, the Bucs broke a 9-all tie and scored six of the match's final seven points.

"The kids played real well tonight," said Gulf coach Shari Schau. "Our serving in the second half of the first game was big."

Likewise, the serving of Ridgewood carried it to victory against the Eagles, who finished 1-16. Despite a slow start in the first game, the Rams closed strong behind Tiffany Fischer. Despite struggling with her hitting, the senior outside hitter served six straight points to close out the game. She also scored the final point when her pass hit the tape of the net and rolled over for the winner.

"I told the girls the only way we were going to lose tonight is if we lost to ourselves," Bavetta said. "We were trying to make sure everyone played. It was a total team effort."

In the second game, Nikki Drake and Chrissy Bavetta served three straight points, and Heidi Taylor served the final six points of the match.

The Rams will now meet the Spongers. They were beaten at home earlier this season by the Spongers, but Marlyn Bavetta thinks the Rams will have home-court advantage tonight even though the match is at River Ridge.

"They have never played in this gym," said Bavetta. "We have. I think we do have a home-court advantage. We'll have more of an advantage playing here."