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Success of seasons past motivate Royal Knights

By STEVE LEE
Published January 11, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - Not since the Dave LaRoche years has River Ridge had a double-digit winning season. This is the year, promises fifth-year coach Steve Doyle.

"With the games remaining, I feel that we should surpass 10," said Doyle, who had three seven-win seasons before last season's eight wins.

River Ridge is 8-6-2, tying the most wins in a season since LaRoche now Hudson's assistant principal capped a nine-year coaching run that included a 136-61-27 record, four district titles and two state appearances with 20 victories in 1999-2000.

The Royal Knights host Gulf on Friday before next week's road games at Mitchell and Wiregrass Ranch. They have not played the Bucs this season, lost 5-1 to the Mustangs and held the Bulls scoreless 7-0. Doyle noted that his prediction included games to be played in the Class 5A, District 7 tournament.

Despite 10 club players on the roster, Doyle would not call his current squad the most talented he has coached at River Ridge. Chemistry is another story, with seven underclassmen making the starting lineup.

"I think they have a purpose," Doyle said. "They want to try to get to where the old (River Ridge) teams used to get to, the (district) finals."

River Ridge overcame a 1-4 start, in part due to the play of freshman goalkeeper Sean Jones and six sophomores: defenders Steve Femino, Taylor Watson and Joey Balsamo; midfielders Alex Ratkovic and Jack Paris; and forward Blake Monaghan.

Monaghan is the Knights' scoring leader with 10 goals and 25 points. Eric Karcinski, a junior who played keeper in his first two seasons at River Ridge, and Bryce Sliz each have 22 points. Jones has a 1.16 goals-against average and four shutouts, which allowed Karcinski to accept his transition.

"I like it," Karcinski said of playing out. "It's fun for a change."

Steve Lee can be reached at lee@sptimes.com or (352) 521-6517.

[Last modified January 10, 2007, 21:41:42]


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