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Top-seeded Ridgewood thinking final four

Earlier this season, Ridgewood's Tanner Wolfe said his team would go unbeaten.

Wolfe and his teammates had to settle for being the county's winningest team, 17-2-3 before Friday's regular season finale at Land O'Lakes. And the Rams went 7-1-2 in Class 4A, District 10 to earn the top seed in that tournament that begins Monday at Wesley Chapel.

"It's all right," Wolfe said of the Rams falling short of his prediction. "I think it's better now that I think about it that we did get a loss before districts, because everybody would have wanted to beat us even more."

A 5-0 loss to Hudson and 1-0 loss to Mitchell are the only blemishes on a season Ridgewood's players and coach feels could wind up at Fort Lauderdale's Lockhart Stadium for the state final four.

"I'm happy with what we've done this year," Ridgewood coach Ed McComiskey said.

Foremost in the players' minds, McComiskey said, is being aware of an upset in the district tourney. Last season, Ridgewood was seeded third before winning a district title by defeating top-seeded Springstead.

"We were the underdog and we won," Wolfe said, adding that for this year's districts "it's good to be on top."

For McComiskey, it is the first No. 1 seeding for a district tourney in his six seasons at Ridgewood.

"There's a lot of pressure and we're expected to win, but (his players are) expecting that to happen," McComiskey said. "We're going (to districts) after bouts of sickness and injury, and all that. I think we'll do well."

Like most teams, the Rams dealt with bouts of the flu and injuries that at times kept a handful of players out of the lineup, but not for long periods of time.

Up front, Wolfe and Richard Jata, a senior transfer from Gulf, gave the Rams the highest scoring duo in the county. They combined for 53 goals and 140 of the team's 237 points.

"I knew up front we would be fine," McComiskey said. "I was concerned about our goalkeeping."

At the beginning of the season, David McNally, Glen Hnilica and David Miley alternated between the pipes with McComiskey anticipating that one would emerge as the season progressed. That turned out to be McNally, a 5-foot-4 sophomore whose skill made up for his lack of size.

"The only doubts I had about McNally at the beginning of the year was his age and experience, but he's a tough kid," McComiskey said. "He's got a lot of courage and he's done fine. He doesn't back down. He'll come out against anybody."

McNally had one of his best games in a 1-0 loss to Mitchell on Jan. 26. He made 16 saves, coming out on several occasions to cut down shooters' angles and twice stopping Mustang scoring leader Ryan Villiard on breakaways.

While his team is the district favorite, McComiskey expects strong challenges from either Hudson, Wesley Chapel or Gulf. Hudson is coming off a 21-win season in which it made it to the region finals; Wesley Chapel, which also has a bye as the second seed, has a school-record 14 wins; and Gulf, which has 12 victories in a so-called rebuilding season, is led by Novica Maric, who leads the county with 50 goals.

"I've always said that if you can survive getting past your district, then you should get pretty far in the regionals," McComiskey said. "The teams in this county are pretty good. I'm looking forward to (the district tournament)."

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