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River Ridge steps toward ultimate goal

The Royal Knights are looking for a lot more than a district championship.

Published October 22, 2004

TRINITY - Ever since her older sister, Ashley, went to the state semifinals in 1996, River Ridge senior Tricia Thomas has had one goal.

"I've always said, "When I'm in high school, I want to go, too,"' Thomas said. "Ever since seventh grade, I said, "My senior year, we're going to states."'

After losing in the region finals last season, Thomas and her top-seeded teammates took a step toward another shot at their goal with a a tightly contested 25-13, 25-17, 25-23 victory over No. 3 Clermont East Ridge in the Class 5A, District 5 final Thursday at Mitchell.

River Ridge (22-4) will stay home to play District 6 runner-up Lakeland in a region quarterfinal on Thursday. East Ridge (17-9) will travel to District 6 champ Lake Gibson.

By sweeping the Golden Knights for the third time this season, the Royal Knights won their eighth district championship in 10 seasons and denied East Ridge, which moved up from 4A this season, a third consecutive district title.

"Beating any team three times is hard, especially when you sweep them all three times," River Ridge coach Heidi Castelamare said. "It's real hard. And they're big, and they're strong, and they've got a lot of momentum, and they're well-coached."

To draw off East Ridge middle blocker Stephanie Schmitz, River Ridge faked middle hits and moved the ball to outside hitters Tricia Thomas and Kelly Bruce, who combined for 24 kills. The Golden Knights hit a lot of crosscourt shots, so Castelamare put Thomas and Tarah Bigger, her two best defensive players, on the left side, allowing them to dig up more hits.

Setter Brittany Castelamare passed out 37 assists, and Bigger added six kills for River Ridge.

Though they trailed at times, falling as far behind as 18-14 in the final game, the Royal Knights finished strong. They closed with runs of 11-2, 10-2 and 11-5 to put the match away.

"When we get up, we usually go," Bruce said. "When we get excited, we keep it going and we play a lot better."

The state semifinals beckon.

[Last modified October 22, 2004, 01:10:16]


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