By STEVE LEE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001
NEW PORT RICHEY -- Not that defending Sunshine Athletic Conference champ River Ridge was undeserving of recognition, but Hudson coach Jamie Varga said her team stood on its own merits.
The Cobras (16-3) undoubtedly will draw more attention after Thursday's 4-3 win over River Ridge (15-1), which was vying for its second consecutive unbeaten season.
Aside from losing for the first time in two years, the Royal Knights lost the SAC title to Hudson, which finished 8-0 to River Ridge's 7-1.
"It's a big win," Varga said. "We've been talking about this match since we lost to (River Ridge 5-2 on March 6)."
"It feels good to win this time," said Hudson's Jessica Franca, who teamed with Michelle Griffin for a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 1 doubles that clinched the match.
Jen Saurez and Ali Bigger won singles matches for River Ridge, but Suarez needed a partner for the No. 1 doubles match when Bigger, who is recovering from mononucleosis, felt too tired to continue. That partner turned out to be No. 7 Jessica Glenn, who played because others were sick.
"No excuses," said River Ridge coach Ron Spriggs, who said he felt "disappointed for the girls. They wanted to go 30-0 (the Knights went 14-0 last year) and be working on next year."
Nikki Prack, Kathleen Cook and Rebecca Arico won singles matches for Hudson, which put pressure on River Ridge to win both doubles matches. After the Knights lost in No. 1 doubles, River Ridge's No. 2 doubles duo -- Dacey Mahoney and Nikki Pridgen -- came back to win 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Prack and Cook.
But by then, the conference winner had been decided and River Ridge no longer was unbeaten.