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Knights bow out of state tourney

Lisa Molinara found a niche on the grass adjacent to Court 16 at the Lakeland City Courts Monday and placed her blanket down. She cracked open some textbooks and proceeded to catch up on some homework.

In between jotting her notes, the River Ridge senior took time out to offer encouraging words to Royal Knights teammates wwho were playing in the opening round of the Class 5A state tournament.

Mariena Deeb and Kerri Goldberg represented the last hope for River Ridge to advance after Deeb dropped out of the individual singles competition with a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Boca Ciega's Tiffanie Kalvoda. Deeb, a graduating junior, and Goldberg, a sophomore, also were the last North Suncoast players still alive.

In the early going, it appeared as though Deeb was going to find a touch of revenge as the purple power of the Knights caught Kalvoda and Tomeka Collins off guard and whizzed through the first four games with easy victories.

But before Molinara got a chance to tune up her vocal cords, the streak ended as the Pirates stormed back to win the next four games. Kalvoda-Collins carried that momentum to a 7-5, 7-5 win.

"The other team's timing came back," River Ridge coach Steve Swenson said. "We had some unforced errors and they got close."

After taking a 4-0 lead, the River Ridge tandem scored just three points in the next three games. The Knights tied it at five games apiece, but couldn't find their early groove.

Still, Swenson deemed the season a success after going undefeated in the conference and dropping just two matches en route to the district title. Swenson said the experience will make the returning underclassmen more motivated for next year.

"We are no longer one to forget easy," Swenson said of his team.

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