River Ridge used an up-tempo, high-powered offense to defeat conference and district foe Land O'Lakes
Every time the Gators appeared to be on the verge of turning things around, the Royal Knights went on a run.
"It's our offense," Knights coach Heidi Castelamare said. "We aren't big, so we have to speed up our offense with our serves."
Land O'Lakes (7-5, 0-5 in 5A-5, 3-2 in Sunshine Athletic Conference) took a 3-2 lead in the first game, but River Ridge (10-0, 7-0, 4-0) countered with a 13-3 run behind the serving of outside hitters Jackie Linville, Kelly Bruce and Tarah Bigger.
The Gators pulled within eight, but never got closer as the Royal Knights won Game 1.
In the second game, River Ridge jumped to an early 6-0 lead behind the serving of Brittany Castelamare, the coach's daughter.
The Gators hung tough, pulling within two, 15-13.
After a sideout point, Castelamare led River Ridge on another six-point run, giving the Knights an eight-point lead as they again cruised to victory 25-15.
Land O'Lakes had little spark in the third game, allowing River Ridge to jump to an early 8-1 run behind the serving of Castelamare and outside hitter Tricia Thomas, who proved successful all night with her kills.
Land O'Lakes pulled within six, 13-7, on strong defensive play by Hannah Newhall and Tristin Trottier. All but one of the Gators' Game 3 points were scored on sideouts.
After a sideout by River Ridge, Castelamare thwarted the Gators' hopes for a comeback, as she served 11 straight points to finish off the game and match. The junior setter was unaware of her streak.
"I wasn't counting," she said. "I was just trying to play my hardest. This sets us up well for next week (against Pasco)."
"She's the reason we're able to run the offense we run," Heidi Castelamare said. "The whole thing revolves around her."