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Knights' loss tough to take

By STEVE LEE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 17, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- River Ridge turned a rebuilding season into a championship run that came within two games of the state final four and matched the school's best season ever.

The Knights (12-4-5) were eliminated Tuesday by St. Augustine Nease in the Class 2A, Region 2 semifinal. River Ridge also made it to the regional semifinals in 1997, losing 4-0 to Daytona Beach Seabreeze.

His team graduated eight starters and its all-time leading scorer and exceeded expectations, but coach Keith Hooper said the 10-0 loss was tough to swallow.

River Ridge had not lost a game by that margin since a 10-0 loss to St. Petersburg Lakewood in the 1993-94 season.

"They were disappointed," Hooper said of his players. "They were shedding some tears. You're out there for four minutes and it's over."

Actually, it was a bit quicker than that.

"We scored two goals in the first two minutes and they didn't fight as hard as I think Land O'Lakes or (Orlando) Bishop Moore would," Nease coach Dave Silverberg said. "They were overmatched."

The Knights were also shut out in a 6-0 2A, District 8 final loss to Land O'Lakes before beating Lecanto 2-1 in a regional quarterfinal.

Hooper, 131-68-27 in 10 seasons as River Ridge's only coach, called it "a successful year. (The players are) happy.

"I think that they, in a way, exceeded some of their expectations at having a certain record. I think they had their personal expectations of wanting to make it out of the district and to the regionals."

Though she did not come close to matching the 34 goals Lindsey Jones, now a freshman at the Air Force Academy, had last season, scoring leader Sarah Slusak scored 17 goals to lead the offense.

Vicky Weatherholt chipped in with eight, Mandi Petrella five and Stefani Simon led the Knights with 13 assists.

Sweeper Melissa Jones and goalkeeper Kat Mazzella, who had six shutouts, anchored the defense.

Land O'Lakes coach Vicky King was not surprised by the Knights' success, despite beating them three times.

"They had lost a lot of scoring, but, over the years, they've been a strong team," King said. "The team was trying to maintain its reputation."

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