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Two Rams free to get their kicks

Ridgewood midfielders Ryan Memoli and Ryan Piemonte have made their extra work on free kicks pay off in a playoff berth.

Published February 1, 2006

NEW PORT RICHEY - Ridgewood is playoff-bound for the first time since winning a district title and reaching the region semifinals in 2003.

Despite a 1-0 loss to Land O'Lakes in Friday's Class 5A, District 7 final, the Rams made the playoffs with a dramatic 2-0 semifinal win over Wesley Chapel.

Ridgewood still is playing because of clutch play from three seniors who remember the team's last postseason appearance. And if the current run is to be extended, goalkeeper Dave McNally and midfielders Ryan Memoli and Ryan Piemonte must continue to come up big like they did in the district tournament.

"McNally's save was the key and probably the turning point of the game," coach Ed McComiskey said of his keeper's diving stop on a blast by Wesley Chapel's Vince Lopez.

Moments later, the Rams scored twice in the final three minutes, the first goal by Joe Renda off a free kick.

With Ryan Piemonte, who was taken down by a defender at the top of the penalty box, and Ryan Memoli lining up for the free kick, Wildcat keeper Marc Quiles had to figure out which of the Rams' top two scorers (Piemonte and Memoli have combined for 30 goals) would take the shot.

It was neither. Memoli faked a shot and Piemonte passed to Renda, who tucked the ball inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.

"We wait to see where the wall (of defenders) is and where the goalie lines up," Memoli said. "(Piemonte) told me he wanted it, and I knew he was going to make something happen."

"They're my free-kick specialists," McComiskey said of Piemonte and Memoli. "They're experienced players. They know what they're doing."

The two hone their free kicks by working on them after practice. That diligence paid off in Ridgewood's playoff push, but not in the 5A-7 final since the Rams never got a chance against a Land O'Lakes defense that allowed six shots.

"We know how good a team Land O'Lakes is," McComiskey said.

The Gators have improved dramatically in the back with the recent return of defenders T.R. Finney and Matt Goolsby, and the Rams lost a top defender after the win over Wesley Chapel. Mike Kern, who broke his nose in a late-season game against Zephyrhills, had surgery before the final.

"Without Mike out there, everyone was staying back too much," McComiskey said. "We lost control of the midfield and couldn't get the ball to our offensive players."

Wharton, Ridgewood's foe in Thursday's 5A region quarterfinal, is also coming off a 1-0 game in which the Wildcats beat Freedom and claimed their first district crown. McComiskey has not seen the Wildcats play, but figures a one-goal game, and possibly overtime, is likely.

And if it comes down to penalty kicks or free kicks, McComiskey has two players to rely on. Which one, however, is anyone's guess.

Either way, McComiskey said, "I know we're going to score. They can drill it."

Or pass it.

[Last modified February 1, 2006, 01:03:19]

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