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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
NEW PORT RICHEY - Bloomingdale coach Bonnie Hess didn't know until late who her team would face in the Region 2 quarterfinals, so the Bulls only had one day to adjust to River Ridge's tipping.
It wasn't nearly enough.
With setter Brittany Castelamare dumping balls into open spaces and middle hitters Brittney Frey and Christina Townsend dropping them over the heads of Bloomingdale's front row, River Ridge won 25-16, 25-22, 25-15 Wednesday at the Jim Valentine Athletic Complex.
"We knew they would tip a lot, I knew that was coming," Hess said. "But we hadn't seen as much successful tipping throughout the season as we did."
River Ridge (23-4) advanced to the region semifinals, where it plays at Winter Park Lake Howell on Saturday. The Royal Knights have been to the region finals the past four seasons.
After advancing from the No. 7 seed to finish second to King in the District 8 tournament, Bloomingdale (14-11) saw its season end amid tentative play and a flurry of serving errors.
Contrary to the scouting report River Ridge coach Heidi Castelamare received, which said Bloomingdale hits nothing but slide attacks from the right side, the Bulls hit primarily toward boundary lines. But River Ridge's back row of Tarah Bigger, Christina Townsend, Jackie Linville and Joy Barquin dug up most of the Bulls' hits.
"We didn't play aggressively, we didn't hit hard, we tipped around a lot," Hess said. "When our hard hitters hit really hard, we are successful. But we played too tentative, I think, on the hits. They're athletic, but they outhustled us and tipped on us, and we couldn't get to all of them."
Taking advantage of Bloomingdale's defensive deficiencies, Castelamare told her hitters to put the ball in zones and hit hard. The Royal Knights set inside to avoid the Bulls' taller outside blockers.
After trailing from the start in the first game, Bloomingdale took advantage of unforced errors to jump out to an 8-3 lead in the second. But River Ridge battled back to take an 11-10 lead on a Christina Townsend kill and won when Raquel Casto was called for a net violation.
Serving errors and an early 9-3 deficit were too much to overcome in the third game.
"They're a very good team, and they're very competitive," Hess said. "Even though we were taller, they have some strong hitters even though they're short. I thought there was a lot of good play and a lot of excitement on a lot of the rallies. We just didn't rally."